Despite lower revenue collections, Arkansas is doing fine, lawmakers told

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(The Center Square) – Arkansas’ general revenue for September was lower than last year but exceeded the forecast by over $100 million, state officials said Friday.

The state collected just over $2 billion last month, said Dr. Carlos Silva with the Bureau of Legislative Research told council members. It represented a 1.1% decline from last year, down $22.4 million, Silva said.

Net available funds were a little over $1.7 billion, a decline of $73.3 million, according to the revenue report.

“Even though we had those declines, it’s still above the forecast,” said Silva. “We have a total of $108 million above forecast and the forecast did include some surplus.”

As for Arkansas’ crops, Silva said the state is seeing increased acreage and yields.

“We expect to see some increase in the end of this fiscal year on those collections, but as of right now we have a lot of those numbers that are based on last year,” Silva told the council.

Sen. Bryan King, R-Green Forest, questioned representatives from the Department of Finance and Administration about patterns of “exponentially increasing spending.”

“We’ve just had this Israel thing on top of the Ukraine thing, you have the things in Washington D.C., is there any concern or anything that we need to change our spending patterns that keep increasing spending or are we just going to keep going?” King asked.

DFA Administrator Robert Brech said Arkansas is one of the few states that has held spending down.

“Since the revenue started flowing in we’ve still stayed below 3%. I looked at some reports nationally, some states raised their spending 15-20%, they just raised their spending as more money came in,” Brech said. “As that revenue drops off, they’re going to have some difficulties. California went from a very large surplus to a deficit. I think by keeping the RSA at 3%, Arkansas has really put itself in a good position where, if the revenues do drop of, because of what we have projected in revenues and actual collections and the money we’ve set aside, even if things do take a huge downturn, I think Arkansas is in a very good place and much better than most states.”

When asked how programs like the LEARNS Act could impact Arkansas’ cash flow, Brech said he did not believe Arkansas has a cash flow problem.

“Am I concerned? Yes. We did with the LEARNS Act, because it is an expensive proposition, we actually have those projections made out,” Brech said. “We went out four years just to make sure we could do that. We put $100 million into the Department of Education this year, or we will next year rather, but we’ve had all that projected. I think we’re in good shape to be honest.”

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