KASU

Funding

The Arkansas Highway Commission has decided to seek a ballot measure to increase money for state roads next year after lawmakers refused to send voters a proposal that would have raised $200 million a year.

The panel voted Wednesday to pursue putting a proposal on next year's ballot to increase highway funding. The panel will spend the coming months studying the level of additional funding it wants to seek. It also will work on the specific type or proposal it wants to put before voters.

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The six members of Arkansas' congressional delegation have written to President Donald Trump in support of a federal disaster declaration for the state as a result of severe storms, flooding and tornadoes that struck the state in April and May.

Republican Sens. John Boozman and Tom Cotton and Reps. Rick Crawford, French Hill, Steve Womack and Bruce Westerman say in a letter sent Tuesday that state and local officials are working to clean up and rebuild following the storms, but that federal assistance is needed to help in the recovery.

Ann Kenda, Arkansas Public Media

LITTLE ROCK – Governor Asa Hutchinson today submitted his formal request for a federal disaster declaration to the Trump administration for 31 Arkansas counties affected by severe storms, flooding and tornadoes in April and May.

The 3rd Annual Tracking Report from the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement finds that the state is having success with a new health care business model that puts the focus on improved outcomes and cost savings.  

Unlike fee-for-service, the model used by the vast majority of health care providers, the Health Care Payment Improvement Initiative offers no financial incentive for ordering unnecessary tests.  Providers instead earn bonuses for improved outcomes for patients and for reducing costs.

It’s already saved the state some $54 million in Medicaid costs, according to Mike Motley, assistant policy director at ACHI.  The tracking report found that total Medicaid costs predicted at $660.9 million came in at $606.5 million in 2015, due to cost avoidance.  The savings were then shared between the state and the providers who helped avoid unnecessary costs.

Motley said the value-based model benefits patients as well by emphasizing outcomes and putting them in closer contact with their caregivers.

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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri's recent special legislative session cost taxpayers more than $66,000.

Gov. Eric Greitens called lawmakers into special session to authorize discounted electricity rates for a steel-works facility and aluminum smelter that are considering opening near the southeastern Missouri town of New Madrid.

Lawmakers passed the legislation in one week, and tried to hold down costs by coming to the Capitol in Jefferson City only on the days when votes were scheduled.

Arkansas is preparing an application for changes to the state’s Arkansas Works healthcare program even as federal lawmakers propose budget cuts that would significantly de-fund it.

The Congressional Budget Office on Wednesday released an analysis of the possible impact of health care legislation passed by the U.S. House, the American Health Care Act, that found a proposed $834 billion in cuts would cause 23 million people to lose insurance under the legislation — 14 million of those would be Medicaid patients.

The U.S. Senate plans to spend the summer writing health care legislation to repeal, replace, or tweak the Affordable Care Act. The House has passed a bill that congressional analysts say would reduce the deficit and cut 23 million people from their insurance. Arkansas Public Media’s Sarah Whites-Koditschek spoke with Senator John Boozman about his goals for health care.

U.S. Senator John Boozman is applauding President Trump’s immigration enforcement budget proposals, but is cautioning that other parts of the Homeland Security budget are “unworkable.” The Republican senator convened his first meeting as chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security on Thursday.

Boozman praised increases in spending for border patrol agents and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Trump’s Proposed Cuts To Agriculture Could Have Dramatic Impact On Arkansas

May 25, 2017

President Donald Trump’s proposed $4.1 trillion budget includes deep cuts to the United States Department of Agriculture, and Arkansas farmers could feel the squeeze.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas' highest court is seeking an 11 percent pay raise for its justices, a move the chief justice says is needed to be in line with what other state supreme courts in the country are paid.

Chief Justice Dan Kemp on Tuesday outlined the proposal to the Independent Citizens Commission, which sets salaries for the state's top elected officials.

By SUMMER BALLENTINE, KATIE KULL and DAVID A. LIEB, Associated Press

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri lawmakers faced a Friday evening deadline to finish work in their annual session with several key proposals in limbo, including personal care services for low-income seniors and the disabled and pay raises for tens of thousands of minimum-wage workers in St. Louis.

Ten Republicans and six Democrats have been named to serve on a legislative task force that will recommend tax cuts before the 2019 session.

House Speaker Jeremy Gillam and Senate President Jonathan Dismang on Monday named their appointees to the Tax Reform and Relief Legislative Task Force, created as part of a $50 million income tax cut plan approved by lawmakers this year.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas is cutting its budget for the coming fiscal year by $43 million, state officials announced Tuesday, days after the governor ordered reductions in this year's funding for state agencies.

The Department of Finance and Administration lowered its forecast for the state's revenue for the fiscal year that begins July 1 to $5.4 billion. The reductions will affect programs for about a dozen agencies under a lower priority category of the state's budget.

MICHAEL HIBBLEN / KUAR NEWS

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas lawmakers have approved an effort to scale back the state's hybrid Medicaid expansion by moving 60,000 people off the program and to require some remaining participants to work.

The Senate and House gave final approval to identical measures Wednesday allowing the state to seek federal approval for the new restrictions to the program, which covers more than 300,000 people. The program was created in 2013 as an alternative to expanding Medicaid under the federal health overhaul.

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee legislative leaders appear to agree on a bigger property tax break for disabled veterans, which should put the finishing touch on months of work on Gov. Bill Haslam's bill that increases the gas tax to fund roadwork and cuts other taxes.

Both chambers passed the Republican governor's roads bill Wednesday, with the property tax break unresolved.

Senators amended the legislation to increase property tax relief to disabled veterans to up to $175,000 in property value, from $100,000 currently.

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Republican Gov. Bill Haslam's road and bridge funding bill is headed for a showdown in the Tennessee House on Wednesday.

The sticking point is the governor's proposal to pay for new projects in large part through the state's first gas tax hike since 1989.

Supporters argue that a package of tax cuts made in the bill outweigh the amount raised from the fuel tax increases.

Opponents are calling for the fuel tax hikes to be stripped from the bill and to instead dedicate sales tax revenues from auto sales to highway funding.

A bill to create educational savings accounts for Arkansas students failed in the Arkansas House today on a 46 to 39 vote Friday.

The so-called “Parental Choice Program,” SB 746, was not written to be a traditional vouchers program financed directly by the state. Instead it would have created non-profit organizations to funnel contributions from taxpayers and corporations to parents for their children’s school of choice. Donors to those organizations would get a 65 percent tax credit at an estimated $3 million annual cost to the state for three of a four-year pilot.

A beleaguered bid in the Arkansas Legislature to collect sales taxes from online purchases from companies without a physical presence in the state narrowly failed in the House on Monday. Representative Dan Douglas, a Republican from Bentonville, said it didn’t make sense to collect a tax on his blue jeans at a local store but not when he bought them online.

“They’re the same brand of blue jeans, the same style, the same size, used on the same fat body for the same purpose and they didn’t collect sales tax,” said Douglas. “Now is that fair?”

Echo Soza lives at Our House, a homeless shelter for the working poor in Little Rock. The 47-year-old housekeeper was uninsured a few years ago when she had a stroke.    

“I actually was hospitalized and then lost my housing and then came here,” she says.  

U.S. Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas says despite proposed changes to the federal healthcare bill introduced by Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan, he still cannot back the measure. He also doesn't think it will have the support needed to pass in the Senate.

In a statement Tuesday, the Republican said:

Despite the proposed amendments, I still cannot support the House health-care bill, nor would it pass the Senate. The amendments improve the Medicaid reforms in the original bill, but do little to address the core problem of Obamacare: rising premiums and deductibles, which are making insurance unaffordable for too many Arkansans. The House should continue its work on this bill. It’s more important to finally get health-care reform right than to get it fast.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson is asking the Trump Administration for approval to make changes to the Arkansas Works Medicaid expansion program. They include lowering the eligibility cap, which would reduce the number of beneficiaries by about 60,000 people, and adding a work requirement for recipients.

The Republican governor’s announcement came the same day that Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives released a long-awaited plan to repeal and replace President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law. Whether that will get the needed support for passage isn’t known yet.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A Middle Tennessee State University poll finds that registered voters favor Republican Gov. Bill Haslam's proposal to pay for a new road program primarily through a fuel tax hike by a margin of 38 percent to 28 percent.

The remaining third of the 600 people surveyed said they weren't sure about the governor's plan. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens is shunning the state plane and instead relying on private donors and campaign funds to pay for his flights.

Since taking office in January, the Republican governor has not flown on a state airplane. That's a significant departure from his Democratic predecessor, Jay Nixon, who frequently used state airplanes.

Greitens' Chief of Staff Michael Roche says the governor is committed to spending as little of the taxpayers' money as possible on travel.

State legislators are beginning to consider proposals for constitutional amendments that could eventually go to a vote of the people. Wednesday was the deadline for members of the Arkansas House of Representatives and Senate to file such proposals. In the Senate Committee on State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Thursday, lawmakers discussed two of the nearly thirty proposals filed in both chambers.

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A bill proposed in Tennessee's legislature would create a sales tax holiday for guns and ammunition.

The bill, filed Wednesday by Republican Rep. Dennis Powers, calls for a "Second Amendment sales tax holiday" on the first weekend of September each year.

Knoxville station WBIR reports that Tennessee already has a sales tax holiday at the end of the summer that's meant for back-to-school shopping. Last year, Louisiana and Mississippi each hosted sales tax holiday weekends on guns.

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