From the historic hallways of the most beautiful state Capitol in our nation, this is Senator Keith Ingram.
The 2022 fiscal session has ended, after the legislature adopted a $6 billion state budget that increases funding for public schools, Medicaid and law enforcement.
We raised the starting salary for Arkansas state troopers, from an average of about $42,000 to about $54,000.
Also, we approved salary stipends of $2,000 for state troopers, and $5,000 for certified law enforcement officers.
We increased reimbursements to county jails for housing state inmates. Currently, the rate is $32 a day for each inmate, and we appropriated enough new funding to raise that to $40 a day.
Also, the legislature appropriated money for adding 498 beds to the North Central prison unit in Calico Rock.
However, before the state spends any tax revenue on a prison expansion, the Legislative Council will analyze whether the new beds are really needed.
Right now, Arkansas needs more prison space for violent, serious offenders who are a true danger to society.
Those inmates should never be held in county jails because they pose a danger to the jail staff and to people in jail for minor offenses.
The only non-budget bills we considered were reforms to the health insurance systems for teachers and state employees.
The House voted down an attempt to add $6 million to a private school voucher program. That was good news, because currently the state is not fully funding the needs of public schools, such as the fund for extraordinary special education expenses.
We increased funding for community services and home care for people with disabilities, which will abolish the waiting list of about 3,200 people who need those services.
The Medicaid budget was approved without controversy. That was surprising because in the past, approval of the Medicaid budget has generated bitter controversy.
However, during this fiscal session Medicaid was supported by a supermajority of three-fourths of the members of the House and Senate, as required by the Arkansas Constitution.
That is great news for hundreds of thousands of Arkansas citizens whose health care is provided by Medicaid.
From the Capitol, it is always my great honor and sincere privilege to serve you as your state Senator. This is Keith Ingram.