LITTLE ROCK – This week I presented to the Legislative Joint Budget Committee my proposed balanced budget for Fiscal Year 2020, and it reflects my commitment to public safety, teachers and education, and tax cuts.
This balanced budget plan, which the General Assembly will consider when members convene for the 92nd Session on January 14, increases the budget for the Arkansas State Police by $2.3 million. This new funding is necessary and will allow the agency to hire 24 new State Troopers over the next two years and will establish an annual trooper school. My budget also includes $900,000 for the new Northwest Arkansas Crime Lab in Lowell.
Another of my priorities is an increase in the minimum salary for starting teachers, which is essential if we are to compete with our neighboring states for the best teachers. I have proposed to raise the starting pay by $1,000 a year over four years until we reach a $36,000 annual salary. That will be a higher starting salary than any of the surrounding states.
The cost of that increase is $60 million. In addition to increasing overall education funding, I have submitted a budget letter
requesting a transfer of $60 million from the Educational Adequacy Fund to be set aside for the sole purpose of funding the increase.
Since I took office in 2015, my administration has cut taxes by more than $160 million. Legislators share my desire to further reduce taxes, which we will do incrementally with the 2-4-5.9 plan. That will cut our top marginal tax rate from the current 6.9 percent to 5.9 percent over four years.
The plan will simplify tax tables and brackets, and provide a sizable increase in standard deductions.
Other items in my proposed budget include $2.5 million annually for the state’s Crisis Stabilization Centers, a pilot program to address mental health issues in our communities. It is now going into its second year. Also, we are providing a $1.1 million increase for the Division of Agriculture and a $1.5 million increase for University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.
The budget also adds money to the state’s Long Term Reserve Fund and continues funding for my computer science initiative.
Now that we have put the budget together, the real work of passing it and implementing it begins. I have every confidence that we’ll get there, as we always do.