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Arkansas Week March 7, 2014

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(76) It took five tries but the Private Option survived with one vote to spare. ('15) Next year, though, will its supporters have the votes they need? (122M) In the meantime, how much to spend and how much for the cookie jar? ('14) And this year's ticket, suggesting what for next year's politics?

TRANSCRIPT

HELLO AGAIN EVERYONE.  THANKS FOR JOINING US FOR ARKANSAS WEEK..  THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY CAN PROBABLY WRAP UP ITS WORK IN ANOTHER ONE, TWO, MAYBE THREE DAYS, AND THEN GO HOME BUT THE BIG OBJECTIVE OF THE SESSION AT LEAST FOR THE BEEBE ADMINISTRATION AND THE REPUBLICAN LEADERSHIP IS DONE. HERE TO TALK ABOUT IS MICHAEL HIBBLEN NEWS DIRECTOR OF KUAR PUBLIC RADIO FOR CENTRAL ARKANSAS.  STEVE BRAWNER AN INDEPENDENT JOURNALIST AND DAVID RAMSEY OF THE ARKANSAS TIMES AND DAVID THAT PRETTY MUCH SUMS IT UP AND THEY HAD A LOT RIDING ON THE PRIVATE OPTION AND IT TOOK FIVE VOTES BUT THEY GOT IT.

AND THE STATE AS WELL.  AND PROBABLY AFFECTS 100,000 PEOPLE AND LATER IT WILL BE 200,000 PEOPLE AND AFFECTS BILLIONS OF DOLLARS AND ENORMOUS EFFECT ON THE BUDGET AND THIS WAS THE ISSUE AND THE DIFFICULT CLIMB AS IT WAS LAST YEAR TO GET THE THE 75 MAJORITY AND IT WAS PART OF THE APPROPRIATION AND YOU HAD A GROUP IN OPPOSITION THAT WERE BASICALLY SAYING NO AND AS LONG AS THEY HAD MORE THAN 25 FOLKS IN THE HOUSE SAYING NO THEY COULD BLOCK IT.  AS YOU SAID THIS WAS THE FIFTH VOTE.  YOU KNOW INITIALLY SPEAKER DAVY CARTER SAID WE GOING TO VOTE EVERYDAY AND THEY GOT TIRED OF DOING THAT. I THINK THERE WERE FOLKS THAT DIDN'T LIKE THE TOUGH VOTE AND DIDN'T LIKE HAVING A VOTE EVERYDAY SO THEY KIND OF TOOK A BREAK FROM THAT, DID SOME NEGOTIATING.  THE ODD THING IN SOME WAYS IF YOU LOOK AT THE VOTES PICKED UP OVER TIME IT'S NOT CLEAR THAT ALL THAT MUCH CHANGED.  I THINK A LITTLE PART OF THIS -- IF YOU THINK ABOUT THE GROUP OF 27 THAT WAS BLOCKING THIS OR AT ONE TIME YOU HAD A SMALL GROUP IN THE SENATE BLOCKING THIS IN THE SITUATION IN THE SENATE SENATOR ENGLISH STRUCK A DEAL AND INTERESTED GETTING REFORMS TO THE WORK TRAINING PROGRAMS IN THE STATE. SHE GOT THAT AND THAT FLIPPED HER STATE AND THAT WAS THAT. IN THE GROUP YOU HAD THE 27 BLOCKING AND YOU HAD ENOUGH PEOPLE TO BLOCK IT BUT YOU DIDN'T HAVE ANYWHERE CLOSE TO THE NUMBER OF FOLKS --

TO DO ANYTHING ELSE.

-- TO PASS THE LAW OR PASS A DIFFERENT APPROPRIATION IN ITS PLACE AND YOU WERE IN A STAND STILL AND THIS WAS THE SITUATION THAT NATE BELL TALKED ABOUT FROM THE GET GO.  THERE WASN'T A WHOLE LOT, 26, 27 NOS COULD DO IN THE FISCAL SESSION BESIDES DIG THEIR HEELS IN AND SAY NO AND PART OF THAT DYNAMIC PART OF WHAT WE SAW OVER TIME AND WITH THE FIVE VOTES WHERE THEY'RE SLOWLY CREEPING UP.  AMONG THAT GROUP OF NO VOTES I THINK YOU PROBABLY HAD SOME PEOPLE WHO WERE WILLING TO SAY PRIVATELY THEY WANTED IT TO PASS EITHER FOR POLITICAL REASONS OR FOR THEIR OWN POLICY PREFERENCE YOU BUT DIDN'T WANT TO VOTE FOR IT. I THINK YOU HAD PEOPLE IN THE GROUP THAT DIDN'T LIKE THE PRIVATE OPTION OR DIDN'T LIKE THE IDEA LEAVING WITHOUT A BUDGET AND THE ONE TOOL IN THE TOX BOOK -- THEY DIDN'T HAVE THE VOTES TO PASS SOMETHING IN ITS PLACE OR AMEND THE APPROPRIATION, NOT EVEN CLOSE BUT THEY HAD THE VOTES TO SAY NO WE'RE GOING TO DO NOTHING AND WE'RE GOING TO IN EFFECT HOLD THE ENTIRE MEDICAID BUDGET HOSTAGE AND YOU COULD HAVE HAD A SITUATION, IF THEY KEPT SAYING NO, AND NEITHER SIDE CAVED COME JULY 1 AT THE END OF THE FISCAL YEAR THEY WOULD BE NO FUNDS FOR THE MEDICAID PROGRAM AND NO ONE WANTED AND A DISASTER FOR THE STATE SO THERE WERE FOLKS WITHIN THAT NO GROUP THAT REALLY DID OPPOSE THE PRIVATE OPTION BUT ULTIMATELY DIDN'T FEEL COMFORTABLE WITH THE MINORITY GROUP TO HOLD UP THE ENTIRE BUDGET, AND FINALLY WITHIN THE NO GROUP YOU HAD FOLKS THAT LEGITIMATELY OBJECT TO THE PRIVATE OPTION BUT HAD CONCERNS ABOUT NOW THAT FIGHT WOULD PLAY OUT POLITICALLY.  IF YOU HAVE A GROUP OF 26, 27 OUT OF 100 BLOCKING THE ENTIRE MEDICAID BUDGET IN ORDER TO SORT OF TRY TO GET THEIR WAY ON THIS POLICY WITHIN THE BUDGET THERE WAS -- I CAN TELL YOU THERE WAS A LOT OF CONCERN BOTH AMONG PRIVATE OPTION OPPONENTS AND PROPONENTS WITHIN THE REPUBLICAN PARTY HOW IT WOULD PLAY AND IMPACT STATE WIDE ELECTIONS AND THE GOVERNOR'S RACE AND THE SENATE RACE AS WELL AS THE LEGISLATURE AND THE HOUSE ITSELF SO I THINK GIVEN ALL OF THOSE DYNAMICS YOU KNOW -- AND I HAD ONE OF THE MOST HARD CORE OPPONENTS OF THE PRIVATE OPTION OPTION SAID TO ME AT ONE POINT "TRUTH IS I DON'T THINK WE CAN REALISTIC HOLD OUT BECAUSE THE GROUP OF US WHO FIRMLY BELIEVE THIS SAY MATTER OF PRINCIPLE AND WILLING TO GO TO THE MAT WILLING TO HOLD UP THE ENTIRE BUDGET IF THAT'S WHAT IT TAKES IS A SMALL PERCENTAGE OF THIS GROUP"  SO IT MIGHT HAVE BEEN INEVITABLE EVEN THOUGH IT DIDN'T FEEL THAT WAY AT THE TIME AND THE REASON IS BECAUSE YOU CAN CREATE THE LAY OF THE LAND AND MAJORITY LEADER SAID THE VOTES ARE THERE BUT THEY'RE NOT THERE AND THEY WILL BE THERE NEXT WEEK.  THERE WAS ALWAYS AN EXCUSE.  DAVY CARTER EXPRESSED CONFIDENCE ALONG THE WAY.

AND HIS CAUCUS HELD FIRM FROM THE STATE.

ABSOLUTELY AND IN TERMS OF THIS FINALLY HAPPENING ON TUESDAY I THINK THAT HAD A LOT TO DO WITH THE DEMOCRATS SAYING BASICALLY SAYING ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.  IF YOU WANT OUR VOTES AND THAT BASE IT HAPPENS NOW OR IT DOESN'T HAPPEN AND I THINK THAT WAS SORT OF THE FINAL PRESSURE THAT ALLOWED SOME FOLKS -- THE WAY IT WAS TALKED ABOUT WHEN I WAS TALKING TO LAWMAKERS SOMEBODY HAS TO THROW THEMSELVES ON THE GRENADE AND THERE WAS SOMEONE IN THE GROUP PROBABLY THIS WAS INEVITABLE BUT DID THEY WANT TO PUSH THE BUTTON AND I THINK THAT IS ISSUE AS MUCH CONFIDENCE EARLY IN THE PROCESS AS THE REPUBLICAN LEADERSHIP HAD, AS DEMOCRATIC LEADERSHIP GRED LEDING HAD, THERE WAS SOME REAL DOUBT ALONG THE WAY CAN YOU -- ULTIMATELY YOU NEED 75 PEOPLE TO PUSH THE BUTTON AT ONCE AND THERE WAS BATTLE WHETHER THAT WOULD HAPPEN BECAUSE THE POLITICS ARE TRICKY.  AGAIN I DO THINK THAT IN THE END, AND YOU SAW THIS EVEN WITH CONSERVATIVE ADVOCACY GROUP LIKE AMERICANS FOR PROSPERITY CHOOSING TO STAY OUT OF THIS A LITTLE BIT AND I WOULD ARGUE IMPLICITLY ENDORSING THE APPROACH --

BY STAYING OUT OF IT.

RIGHT AND GET WHAT YOU CAN IN THIS FISCAL SESSION AND I THINK THAT A LOT OF REPUBLICANS, NATE BELL INCLUDED FELT THIS WOULD BE A REAL LOSER FOR THE REPUBLICAN PARTY IF YOU HAD A SMALL GROUP SAYING BASICALLY OUR WAY OR WE SHUT IT DOWN.

YEAH.  STEVE.

WELL, NOW THE FIGHT THAT MATTERS IS NOVEMBER.  THIS CLIMATE THAT YOU NEED 75 VOTES IN THE HOUSE AND 27 VOTES IN THE SENATE WILL HAPPEN EVERY YEAR SO WHAT MATTERS NOW IS WHAT HAPPENS IN NOVEMBER.  THE PRIVATE OPTION OPPONENTS HAD THE UPPER HAND IN THAT THE EIGHT SENATORS OF WHO VOTED NO, ALL OF THEM, SEVEN OF THEM ARE GOING TO BE BACK AND ONE OF THEM, MISSY IRVIN FACES SOMEONE AGAINST THE PRIVATE OPTION SO THAT IS FIRM.  ON THE OTHER SIDE YOU HAVE TWO REPUBLICANS FACING PRIMARY OPPOSITION AND TWO NOT RETURNING AND REMEMBER IT HAD NO VOTES TO SPARE.  IN THE SENATE IT'S SHAKY.  IN THE HOUSE YOU SHOULD 33 OF THE 76 VOTES THAT VOTED YES WON'T BE BACK BECAUSE THEY'RE TERM LIMITED OR FACING A REPUBLICAN OPPONENT WHO GOOD CHANCE IS AGAINST THE PRIVATE OPTION SO ONLY HAD ONE VOTE TO SPARE IN THE HOUSE, SO WHAT MATTERS NOW IS WHO WINS IN NOVEMBER.  IF IT'S A DEMOCRAT OR REPUBLICAN IT STAYS.  IF IT'S NOT HOW DO YOU GET TO 75 VOTES AND IN THE 24 STATE SENATE RACES SINCE OBAMA WAS ELECTED REPUBLICANS HAVE WON 19 AND THE ONLY ELECTION THAT WE HAVE HAD SINCE THE PRIVATE OPTION WAS PASSED, A PRIVATE OPTION OPPONENT EASILY WON AGAINST A PRIVATE PRIVATE SUPPORTER.

OVER IN JONESBORO.

OVER IN JONESBORO.

WELL AS DAVID MENTION THE BASE FOR THE PRIVATE OPTION EVEN WITH THE BELL AMENDMENT THAT PROHIBITS MARKETING AND OUTREACH.  WILL THE BASE OF THE PROGRAM, OF THE PRIVATE OPTION OPTION BE SUCH THAT ALTERS THE POLITICS IN JANUARY WITH THIS THING?

I THINK --

TO WHAT EXTENT WILL IT? IT'S OBVIOUSLY MORE AND MORE PEOPLE. STEVE.

THE BASE --

YES.

IT WILL ELECTORALLY E VOTE.

I DON'T MEAN THAT BASE, THE OTHER BASE.

A COUPLE OF THINGS.  WHEN THE NATIONAL MEDIA HAS BEEN LOOKING AT ARKANSAS AND THEY HAVE BEEN FOLLOWING THIS AND GENERALLY THOUGHT ONCE A STATE EXPANDED HEALTH CARE COVERAGE IT WAS HARD TO TURN BACK AND ESSENTIALLY KICKOFF A LOT OF PEOPLE FROM AT THIS TIME HEALTH INSURANCE SO I THINK THERE WAS KIND OF A OPEN QUESTION WITH FOLKS WATCHING ARKANSAS IS KIND OF THE TIDE TURNING?  IS THIS CHANGING THE DYNAMIC IN A SURPRISING WAY? LET TRUTH IS ARKANSAS IS UNLIKE OTHER STATES NOT BECAUSE OF THE PRIVATE OPTION BUT BAWFTZ 75 VOTE SUPER MAJORITY REQUIREMENT AND IF YOU LOOK AT WHAT HAPPENED IN ARKANSAS POLITICALLY AGAIN THE OVERWHELMING MAJORITY SUPPORTED THIS BUT IT'S TRICKY WHEN THE MARGINS  ARE THAT TIGHT TO GET TO 75.  LOOKING FORWARD TO 2015 I THINK THAT ONE WAY OR THE OTHER THE LAND IS GOING TO SHIFT IN SOME WAY.  IT'S A LITTLE HARD TO PREDICT EXACTLY HOW THAT WILL HAPPEN.  IT'S CERTAINLY POSSIBLE THAT SORT OF THE GROUP OF -- WHEN WE THINK ABOUT THE LAWMAKERS WHO STRONGLY SUPPORT IT, THAT THEIR NUMBERS MAY CHANGE BETWEEN THIS YEAR AND NEXT YEAR.  THE BIG QUESTION THOUGH IS POLITICALLY, AND I THINK THIS PLAYS BOTH IN TERMS OF WHAT HAPPENS IN NOVEMBER AND WHAT WHAT HAPPENS IN 2015 WHEN THEY'RE IN SESSION. POLITICALLY CAN THEY KICK -- MORE THAN 200,000 PEOPLE OFF OF THE HEALTH INSURANCE?  AND I THINK IT WAS INTERESTING IN THE DEBATE EVEN AMONG THE HARD NO NO'S THERE WAS A LOT OF TALK WE DON'T WANT TO KICK ANYONE OFF.  A LOT OF THE AMENDMENTS OFFERED -- THEY WOULD KICK PEOPLE OFF LATER BUT IN THE RHETORIC I THINK IT WAS TELLING THAT VERY EARLY ON IN THE PROCESS IT BECAME -- YOU HAVE UNSURPRISINGLY LAWMAKERS UNCOMFORTABLE WITHING THESE PEOPLE AND KICKING THEM OFF. THERE WAS VAGUE TALK THAT WE CAN COME UP WITH AN ALTERNATIVE PLAN BUT THAT NEVER EMERGED AND EASE PEOPLE OFF BY KICKING THEM OFF THREE MONTHS LATER.  THAT DIDN'T QUITE FLY SO I THINK ON THE ONE HAND, AND I TALKED WITH NATE BELL ABOUT THIS FRANKLY.  HIS OPINION IS WHAT STEVE OUTLINED. HE BELIEVES THAT COMFORTS WILL HAVE A SORT OF BETTER LAY OF THE LAND IN 2015 AND THEY CAN USE THAT TO END THE PRIVATE OPTION. THERE IS ALSO THE POSSIBILITY THOUGH THAT AS YOU -- AS THIS PROGRAM SOLIDIFIES, AS YOU HAVE MORE AND MORE PEOPLE SIGNED UP FOR IT, AND THERE'S LOTS OF OPEN QUESTIONS.  I MEAN BY 2015 WE WILL HAVE A -- MUCH CLEARER SENSE OF SORT OF -- THE FEDS ARE PAYING FOR EVERYTHING BUT IN TERMS OF THE WHAT PER PERSON COST IS.  WE WILL HAVE A CLEARER SENSE OF HOW THE POLICY IS WORKING.  I THINK THE OTHER THING THAT WILL HAPPEN BETWEEN NOW AND 2015 SOME OF THIS -- THE HEALTH SAVINGS ACCOUNTS, COST SHARING FOR PEOPLE BELOW THE POVERTY LINE.  SOME OF THESE SORT OF CONSERVATIVE IDEAS THAT ARE SET TO BEGIN IN 2015 WILL BE IN PLACE SO I THINK THERE WILL BE A PUSH BETWEEN NOW AND THEN TO CONVINCE SOME OF THE SOFT NOS -- HEY THIS THING IS NOW WORKING.  AS YOU DID LAST YEAR YOU HAD SOME PEOPLE THAT VOTED NO OR FOLKS LIKE TIM HAMMER VOTED NO AND THEN YES SAYING WE WANT TO WATCH THIS CLOSELY.  WE WANT TO SEE HOW THIS DEVELOPS SO I THINK THERE IS -- THERE'S SOME NOS THAT WANT KILL THE PRIVATE OPTION AND THAT'S WHAT WE WANT TO DO, BUT I WILL SAY EVEN THEY ARE RELUCTANT TO SAY LET'S KICKOFF THESE FOLKS OFF AND YOU HAVE SOFT NOS THAT ARE MONITORING HOW THIS IS GOING AND WHAT YOU WILL SEE FROM THE REPUBLICAN LATER BETWEEN NOW AND 2015 MAKING SURE THAT SOME OF THE MORE CONSERVATIVE IDEAS ON THE MARGIN OF THE PRIVATE OPTION ARE IMPLEMENTED AND ULTIMATELY YOU KNOW WE'RE GOING TO HAVE THIS DEBATE ALL OVER AGAIN.  I THINK THAT -- I THINK THERE ARE SOME REAL QUESTIONS ABOUT WHAT -- IF WE'RE GOING TO HAVE A SORT OF DEBATE DEMANDING A SUPER MAJORITY ABOUT POLICY YEAR IN AND YEAR OUT I SUSPECT THAT'S GOING TO OPEN UP A CAN OF WORMS THERE ARE WAYS YOU CAN IMAGINE DEMOCRATS IN THE MINORITY USING THIS SAME EXACT TOOL SO I AM KIND OF INTERESTED TO SEE WHETHER IT GETS TO A POINT WHERE WE DON'T HAVE THIS KNOCK DOWN DRAG OUT WAR EVERY YEAR BUT I SUSPECT WE WILL HAVE AT LEAST ONE MORE.

YEAH, WHAT ABOUT THAT STEVE, THE ENROLLMENT BASE, WILL IT REACH A CRITICAL MASS REGARDLESS OF WHAT HAPPENS IN NOVEMBER IT'S MORE AND MORE DIFFICULT TO TOUCH?

SURE.

[INAUDIBLE]

AND THAT IS THE ARGUMENT THAT THE CONSERVATIVES ALWAYS MAKE WITH THESE PROGRAMS.  THEY GET BIGGER INEVITABLY AND IT GETS HARDER AND HARDER TO GET RID OF THEM SO THAT'S THE CONCERN OF COMFORTS AND THAT'S THE PLAN OF SUPPORTERS BUT THEY WANT IT TO WORK IN A WAY --  ACTUALLY THE OVERALL GOAL IS TO DO THIS AND MOVE THE GOVERNMENT PROGRAMS INTO A MORE MARKET BASED APPROACH AND WHAT WE'RE TRYING TO ACCOMPLISH HERE.

I THINK IT MAKES A BIG DIFFERENCE.  ULTIMATELY THE DEBATE -- WE HAD A DEBATE ABOUT THE PRIVATE OPTION AND HOW THE PRIVATE OPTION IS WORKING AFTER TWO MONTHS AND THEN THERE WILL BE A DIFFERENT DEBATE WITH EMPIRICAL DATA TO DISCUSS AND AGAIN IT'S AN OPEN QUESTION HOW ULTIMATELY HOW WILL POL TIGDZS REACT TO KICKING OFF THESE PEOPLE OFF OF COVERAGE AND I THINK WHAT WE HAVE ALREADY SEEN IS FOR SOME PEOPLE THAT WILL MATTER.  FOR A GROUP -- AROUND 25% THAT PROBABLY DOESN'T MATTER.  I MEAN IT DIDN'T MATTER THIS YEAR.  I DON'T KNOW THERE IS ANY REASON IT WILL MATTER ANYMORE NEXT YEAR, AND I THINK AGAIN THAT GETS BACK TO THE 75% SUPER MAJORITY THRESHOLD.  THE PRIVATE OPTION IS ON PRETTY FIRM GROUND IN TERMS HAVING A LARGE MAJORITY OF THE LEGISLATURE SUPPORT IT, BUT TO GET TO THAT 75% I THINK EVERY YEAR IT'S GOING TO BE A STEEP CLIMB.

MICHAEL LOOKS LIKE WE'RE GOING TO PUT SOME MONEY IN THE MASON JAR?  THE BACKYARD.  YOU HAD A SURPLUS.

YEAH AND THERE HAVE BEEN SEVERAL DAYS OF HAGGLING OVER PROJECTS SHOULD BE PASSED TO MAKE USE OF THAT MONEY.  AND IN THE END LOOKS LIKE $100 BILLION WILL BE KEPT.  HOUSE SPEAKER DAVY CARTER WAS ADAMANT THAT WE NEED TO SAVE FOR OUR FUTURE THERE.  THERE ARE A LOT OF THINGS IN THE YEARS AHEAD WE'RE NOT SURE ABOUT BUT WE ENDED UP WITH NEARLY $22 MILLION BEING -- GOING FOR PACKAGE OF BILLS, PASSED THE JOINT BUDGET COMMITTEE AND NOW GOES TO THE FULL HOUSE AND SENATE AND AMONG THE ITEMS SEVERAL KEY ISSUES THAT GOVERNOR BEEBE HAD PUSHED FOR.  $5 BILLION TO THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION TO EXPAND BROADBAND IN SCHOOLS, ALSO $5 MILLION FOR BUILDINGS THAT OPEN ENROLLMENT CHARTER SCHOOLS.  BOTH OF THOSE WERE CASES WHERE YOU HAD MATCHING MONEY AVAILABLE FROM THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT OR IN THE CASE OF CHARTER SCHOOL FROM THE WALTON FOUNDATION, AND THE GOVERNOR SAID A KEY THING HERE TOO.  WE NEED TO LOOK AT WHAT ARE STATE WIDE ISSUES?  YOU HAVE A LOT OF LAWMAKERS THAT CAME IN WITH PET PROJECTS FROM THEIR DISTRICT BUT THE PUSH WAS TO FIND WHAT'S REALLY IMPORTANT.  WE HAD $5 BILLION GO TO THE DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTION TO PAY EMPLOYEES FOR HOLIDAY.  ALSO 3.7 MILLION DOLLARS TO REIMBURSE COUNTIES FOR INMATES BACKED UP WAITING TO GO TO STATE PRISONS AND IN MOST CASES THEY DIDN'T GET AS MUCH MONEY THAT HAD BEEN PUSHED FOR INITIALLY SO IT'S A SMALLER AMOUNT BUT STILL SOME MONEY GOING.  THERE WERE SOME THINGS THAT DIDN'T GET THROUGH.  IN PARTICULAR SENATOR JOYCE ELLIOTT FROM LITTLE ROCK HAD BEEN PUSHING FOR MORE MONEY TO GO TO PRE-K PROGRAMS AND SHE OBJECTED TO MORE MONEY GOING FOR PRISONS SAYING WE CAN DO MORE BY HELPING KIDS AT THE BEGINNING.  USED THE PHRASE "PIPELINE"  TO HELP KIDS AT THE BEGINNING TO HELP THEM AVOID A PATTERN OF LIFE WHERE YOU START GETTING INTO TROUBLE AND THEN IT'S HARD TO GET OUT OF THAT, BUT LOOKS GOOD.  LOOKS LIKE THEY'RE PROBABLY WILL BE SUPPORT IN BOTH CHAMBERS TO PASS THIS.

WELL, AGAIN YOU HAD THE ADMINISTRATION -- BEEBE ADMINISTRATION AND THE LEADERSHIP OF BOTH CHAMBERS PRETTY MUCH IN AGREEMENT ON THIS.  THE FEBRUARY REVENUE REPORT FROM DFNA UNDER SCORED THE WISDOM OF NOT GOING CRAZY ON THE SURPLUS FUNDS THIS YEAR.

YEAH.

MAKING PROJECTIONS -- REVENUE WAS UP YEAR TO YEAR -- MONTH TO MONTH BUT WE DIDN'T MAKE PROJECTIONS.

YEAH IT'S NOT AS CONSISTENT AS PREVIOUS YEARS AND MOST REPORTS WE HAVE BEEN ABOVE FORECAST AND ABOVE WHAT WAS EARNED THE YEAR BEFORE, BUT IT'S NOT ALWAYS IN THE LAST FEW MONTHS AS PREDICTED SO THAT'S ANOTHER REASON TO WHY THERE IS TALK THAT WE NEED TO HOLD ON TO SOME OF THE MONEY.

I THINK ONE THING THAT IS INTERESTING TO WATCH ESPECIALLY IN THE NEXT SESSION RELATES TO SENATOR ELLIOTS' REQUEST AND $2 MILLION FOR PRE-K AND AS YOU SAID SHE GAVE A PASSIONATE SPEECH SAYING WE'RE PORING THE MONEY IN THE PRISONS IN THE BACK END AND WE CAN AVOID THAT BY INVESTING IN PRE-K AND IT'S BEEN FLAT SINCE 2008.  I SUSPECT THAT A LOT OF THE -- YOU KNOW, SORT OF THE ADVOCATES FOR LOW INCOME FOLKS IN THE STATE AND STUDENT IN THE STATE HAVE BEEN FOCUSED ON HEALTH CARE FOR OBVIOUS REASONS OVER THE LAST YEARS AND THAT FIGHT WILL CONTINUE.  I SUSPECT THAT YOU WILL SEE SOME PRESSURE FUT AROUND THE ABC PROGRAM IN ARKANSAS, ARKANSAS ADVOCATES IS AND OTHER ADVOCACY GROUPS HAVE SAID IF REMAINS FLAT YOU NEED TO CUT FOR KIDS AND IT'S GENERALLY A POPULAR PROGRAM IN THE STATE SO IF YOU THINK ABOUT FLAT FUNDING AS CUTS I THINK THAT COULD LEAD TO SOME POLITICAL DRAMA NEXT TIME AROUND BUT OBVIOUSLY SHE GAVE A IMPASSIONED PRESENTATION BUT I THINK EVERYONE KNEW SENATOR ELLIOT DIDN'T HAVE THE VOTES FOR THAT.

IT WAS POLITICALLY INDEFENSIBLE BUT A NON STARTER AGAINST THE DEPARTMENT OF CORRECT.  SPEAKING OF DRAMA THE ADMINISTRATIONS GRUMBLE ABOUT THE HIGHWAY COMMISSION.  THEY DON'T USUALLY GO AS FAR AS HAULING IN SOMEONE FROM THE HIGHWAY COMMISSION TO DEMAND AN EXPLANATION.

YEAH THE SNOW STORM LAST WEEK LEFT MANY DRIVERS IN EASTERN ARKANSAS STRANDED FOR HOURS AND THE GOVERNOR VERY UPSET ABOUT IT.  WANTING TO BRING IN HIGHWAY OFFICIALS, ALSO A COUPLE OF STATE LAWMAKERS, ESPECIALLY THOSE FROM THAT REGION JUST ABOUT WHY ARKANSAS DID SUCH A POOR JOB PREPARING FOR THIS. THE HIGHWAY DEPARTMENT SAYS THEY PRETEETHED THE ROADS BUT THERE WAS THE RAIN BEFORE THE SNOW AND SLEET AND WASHED SOME OF IT AWAY AND THE ISSUE IS THINGS WERE BETTER IN MISSOURI AND TENNESSEE AND THERE WAS A PICTURE OF A HIGHWAY CROSS INTO ARKANSAS AND ON THE MISSOURI SIDE THE ROAD IS CLEAN AND IN ARKANSAS ICE COVERED ROAD AND THE GOVERNOR SAID THAT HE'S NOT LOOKING TO ASSIGN BLAME, JUST WANTING TO LOOK AT WHAT HAPPENED AND WHAT CAN WE DO BETTER AND AVOID THIS IN THE FUTURE.

WELL, THE GOVERNOR IS SAYING THESE THINGS BECAUSE HE CAN'T DO ANYTHING ELSE.  THE HIGHWAY COMMISSION IN ARKANSAS IS INDEPENDENT OF THE GOVERNOR. BESIDES THE FACT HE APPOINTS THEM FOR 10 YEARS AND THEN PRETTY MUCH DO WHAT THEY WANT TO.

AND USUALLY IRRITATE THE GOVERNOR AT ONE POINT OR ANOTHER IRRITATE THE MAN THAT APPOINTED THEM.

THAT'S TRUE BUT AT THIS POINT ALL HE CAN DO IS USE THE POWER OF THE PULPIT.

YEAH.

WHICH HE CAN DEFINITELY DO. IT WILL HAVE AN IMPACT ESPECIALLY CONSIDERING THERE WERE PEOPLE THAT WERE STRANDED ON THE HIGHWAY FOR 24 HOURS AND NO FOOD AND WATER AND HAD TO HAVE FOOD AND WATER AND GASOLINE TAKEN TO THEM AND THE LEGISLATURE HAS POWER OVER THE COMMISSION BECAUSE IT HAS THE POWER OF THE PURSE AND WE WILL SEE SCOTT BENNETT THE HEAD OF THE COMMISSION TRYING TO EXPLAIN WHAT HAPPENED AND HE'S A SMART GUY AND WILL SEE HOW HE DOES.

OCCASIONALLY THEY STALL THE BUDGET BUT IT'S LIKE THE MEDICAID BUDGET AND YOU MAKE YOUR POINT --

SO MUCH IS THROUGH THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT OR THROUGH GAS TAXES LOCALLY OR THE SALES SAX FROM THE VOTERS AND MUCH IS ON AUTO PILOT AND THE HIGHWAY COMMISSION HAVING A LOT OF SAY.

AND THIS UNIQUE ANGER OF BEING STUCK AND THE GOVERNOR HAS TO DO SOMETHING.

YEAH AND WE HAVE TO LEAVE IT THERE BECAUSE WE'RE OUT OF TIME. THANKS FOR COMING IN AND TO YOU AS ALWAYS THANKS FOR COMING IN AND WE WILL SEE YOU NEXT WEEK.

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