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Lawmakers in Arkansas discuss what should be done with surplus money

Arkansas's special session concluded on Thursday, but the state still has additional surplus money— now lawmakers are discussing how this money will be spent.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — After a three-day session, Arkansas lawmakers passed a $500 million tax cut package and also set aside $50 million for school safety funding. 

"The economy and things are high, and anything we can do to give back to the citizens of this state, that's what here in the General Assembly, we need to be doing," State Representative Dwight Tosh, (R) Craighead County, said.

Governor Asa Hutchinson signed those bills into law on Thursday afternoon in front of a packed room of supporting lawmakers.

"In less than eight years, we have taken the income tax rate from the highest it's ever been to the lowest it has ever been," the Governor said.

There's still a lot of that surplus left, though – one lawmaker told us that there are about a billion dollars left in the tank. So what happens next, and what would those lawmakers use that money on?

That answer depends on who you ask.

"But there's a number of different things that are going to be important issues, not just for the people in north central Arkansas, but for the people across our state," State Senator Scott Flippo, (R) Bull Shoals, said.

We asked multiple legislators – on both sides of the aisle – what they thought the funds should go to. Things like broadband access, roads, children, and fair housing were all brought up.

One thing that they all had in common, though, was that teacher pay could and should be brought up.

"That is something that's on a lot of people's minds right now," Rep. Tosh, said. "We know that that's something that is of a high priority."

Recently, protests over teacher pay have become commonplace in Arkansas, and some lawmakers like State Representative Fredrick Love, (D) Pulaski County, have even tried to extend the session to discuss them.

"We see our teachers, by the droves, leaving, being recruited by other states," Representative Love said.

That thought is shared on the Senate side, too.

"I mean, Mississippi is beating us. Really. I never thought I'd see the day," State Senator Linda Chesterfield, (D) Little Rock, said. "We always said thank god for Mississippi, Mississippi saying thank god for Arkansas now because your salaries are much lower than ours."

Since questions still remain about what's left of the state surplus, Lieutenant governor Tim Griffin said lawmakers need to work together to figure out what's best for Arkansans.

"If you can't get that done, because the way you go about doing things, you're not going to be very effective in the legislature," he said.

State lawmakers expressed confidence on Thursday afternoon that the regular session at the beginning of next year will bring discussions on teacher pay.

   

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