Action was light at the Capitol today, but David Ramsey reports comments by House Speaker Davy Carter at his daily news conference on House Republican Leader Bruce Westerman’s bill to arbitrarily cap state spending growth at 3 percent — or even less when revenue growth over a rolling period falls below that. Beebe administration officials have questioned the constitutionality of the idea, noted the legislature’s existing ability to control spending through the revenue stabilization act and cited the possibility for unhappy consequences in balancing mandated spending limits with mandated arbitrary cuts in times of slack or even declining revenue.
Said Carter of the Westerman proposal:
“In theory, that’s something that as a conservative, I agree with. There’s been some concerns voiced about the practicality of how that would work and maybe some unintended consequences, just general concerns. Everybody is at the point where we need to sit down and drill those down and see what they are and see if some of the practical concerns outweigh the concept. I don’t expect that to move quickly either way. That’s a big piece of legislation.”
Ramsey followed up. Given that they already have balanced budget, what about the concern about Westerman’s bill interfering with the General Assembly’s power/flexibility to spend or raise revenue as needed?
“Part of that practicality part…we have adequacy in K-12. That’s certainly part of that decision making process. Then we get in to other financial issues. I just gotta sit down and hear all the concerns. I’ve heard them generally. I saw [deputy finance director] Tim Leathers this morning and asked him to come see me and talk about it and see what the issues are. We’ll know more about that next week as far as what we’re really dealing with.”
On other matters:
The deadline for filing retirement-related bills is approaching. This one popped up today —
a bill by Rep. Allen Kerr related to deferred retirement option programs that have been popular throughout state government. It’s a shell proposal. State employees, recognizing Republican interest in holding down the cost of public retirement programs, have feared for some time that the DROP program could be on the chopping block. They’ll be watching this evolve. It could create a big problem if fleshed out to require retired workers who go back to work to resume making retirement contributions.