From the historic hallways of the most beautiful state Capitol in our nation, this is Senator Keith Ingram.
The legislature got a lot done in 2022. In a summer special session we reduced income taxes for about 1.6 million Arkansas taxpayers by moving up the effective date of the tax cuts adopted last year.
Those tax cuts will save Arkansans an estimated $500 million a year.
Earlier in the year, during the fiscal session, we approved $5,000 salary supplements for police officers, parole officers and probation officers.
State troopers received $2,000 supplements and their starting salaries were increased from $42,357 to $54,000.
Also during the fiscal session, the legislature approved using $37.6 million to eliminate a waiting list for people with developmental disabilities.
That means that over the next three years, about 3,200 Arkansans with disabilities will get Medicaid services at home or in their community. Previously, they could only get care in an institution.
The Medicaid program expanded services for about 12,500 women with high-risk pregnancies.
More Medicaid benefits will be available to veterans aged 19 through 30, and to people in rural areas who have been diagnosed with a serious mental illness or a substance abuse disorder.
Also in 2022, the legislature approved funding for a 498-bed expansion of the North Central Prison Unit at Calico Rock.
Prison officials want to build more space for serious offenders. So do county sheriffs. They say that they’re holding more violent offenders in their jails, due to backups in state prison units.
The presence of so many dangerous offenders is a danger to staff, and to low-risk prisoners in jail for minor offenses.
Thanks to legislative action in 2022, county jails will receive higher state reimbursements for housing state inmates when there isn’t enough space in state prison units.
Now the state pays counties $32 a day per inmate. That will increase to $40 a day.
Also, the legislature provided $10 million for body cameras, bullet proof vests and other equipment that protects officers.
The legislature authorized the state Education Department to use $50 million from reserve funds for grants to school districts that need school safety upgrades.
Thanks to the availability of federal relief funds, the state was able to provide grants to local water systems and Internet providers.
The relief funds were meant to help communities recover economically from the impact of the pandemic.
As we approach New Year’s Eve, I want to wish all of you a safe and happy holiday.
May you be able to keep all of your resolutions for the entire year.
From the Capitol, it is always my great honor and sincere privilege to serve you as your state Senator. This is Keith Ingram.