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Arkansas House approves FY 2025 funding, state employee raises

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(The Center Square) – State spending will only rise by 1.76% from $6.2 billion to $6.3 billion in fiscal year 2025, according to the Revenue Stabilization Act passed by the Arkansas House of Representatives Wednesday.

The RSA is the second lowest in the past five years. It went up 2.95% last year, 2.99% in fiscal year 2023, 1.55% in 2022 and 2.87% in 2021, according to Rep. Lane Jean, R-Magnolia, who co-chairs the state budget committee.

“A couple of things that it does is that $35 million is for teacher raises as part of the LEARNS Act, also it brings in another $66 million for our scholarship for students,” Jean said. “This year we funded 7,000 students. This year it will be up to 14,000 that we will be able to provide scholarships if they apply for them.”

The scholarships, known as educational savings accounts, allow student to attend the school of their choice. The bill was sent to the Senate.

The House also approved a bill that raises state employee salaries by 3%. Senate Bill 77 sets a minimum salary of $32,405 annually and increases the maximum salary for pay grades by 10%.

State agencies can also participate in a rewards program for employees based on an “outstanding performance,” according to the bill. The employee could receive up to 40 hours of paid leave or up to $5,000. The agency is responsible for funding the award.

It took two votes for the House to agree to $6 million in funding for the state’s educational television division.

Seventy-five votes were needed to pass the appropriations. The bill only garnered 72 votes the first time before Jean returned to the well.

“If we leave here, they won’t have an appropriation to spend their $6 million and the people will start calling and the pressure will start rising,” Jean said. “And some people, not all, I’m not saying people that have races, will worry about it but some will. And we’ll get called back down here for a special session for $6 million. It’s not worth it.”

Rep. Howard Beaty Jr., R-Crossett, Rep. Harlan Breaux, R-Holiday Island, Rep. DeAnna Hodges, R-Springdale, and Rep. Johnny Rye changed their votes from “no” to “yes.” Rep. Wade Andrews, R-Camden, who did not vote the first time, voted “yes” in the second vote. The bill passed by a vote of 78-11 with five representatives voting present and six not voting.

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