General Assembly in Little Rock

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — There was a special legislative session in Little Rock today to address a multi-million dollar budget deficit projected by Arkansas.

The first of a three-day special session convened in the state’s capital, but not as usual. The House met at UALR’s basketball arena and the Senate looked a little more sparse than usual.

Over the next few days, lawmakers will consider giving the Governor more leeway in deciding where state funds go.

“This is a really big deal to give the Governor a little more flexibility. Fortunately, we have these surplus funds. That’s not always the case,” State Senator Greg Leding said.

Leding attended the meeting virtually.

Both chambers discussed bills that will move millions of dollars from the state surplus to other funds to a COVID-19 rainy day fund.

The money will be used to balance out a loss of tax revenue from businesses closing down as well as more support from the healthcare industry – addressing a loss of tax revenue and the state’s response to fighting the virus.

“We’re going to be looking at shrinking a lot of the state’s budget in the final quarter of the state’s fiscal year. So a lot of state agencies, especially those that aren’t critical to address an epidemic right now are going to be asked to make some pretty drastic cuts,” Leding said.

The Senate will look at the unamended bill Friday after some debate on oversight Thursday.

The house didn’t even need an extra day to thumbs up essentially the same bill.

“I think the people of Arkansas can be proud they won’t have to wonder where their money is going. It’ll be right there in front of them,” Rep. Robin Lundstrum said.

Lundstrum said the new fund will help with a more than $353 million expected shortfall.

The Governor will have power over the funds with the help of a designated Senate group.

“You can’t very well send the Governor out to get things done for the state and not have the ability to fund whatever he needs,” Lunstrum said.

Lundstrum said there may need to be more meetings in the future to discuss how to chip away at the deficit.

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