The budget shoe dropped today at the governor’s daily coronavirus briefing.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced these key points:
Because if the layoffs and other business slowdown, the state expects a $160 million reduction in state revenue through the end of the fiscal year June 30.
He and legislative leaders have decided the state should delay the state income tax filing and payment deadline to July 15, to mirror the delay in federal tax returns.
“This should provide relief and consistency for Arkansas taxpayers,” he said.
However, corporations and those required to make estimated tax payments in the current year will have to comply with the existing deadlines and the April 15 filing date.
The delay in tax filing will reduce revenue by roughly $190 million this fiscal year. The state is not the federal government, Hutchinson noted. It cannot borrow money. So it must adjust the budget and the revenue forecast for the last three months of the year will be reduced by $353 million.
To do this, the governor will call a special session of the legislature. The time has not been set.
Finance Secretary Larry Walther said appropriations in the B and C category of the revenue stabilization act would be cut immediately. The rest of the cut would be apportioned evenly in the top priority Category A, but the legislature then could consider special allotments, beginning with agencies on the frontline of the coronavirus fight
The governor noted the state has a $150 million rainy day fund that can be applied to the budget shortfall, but some of that needs to be preserved in the event of emergency needs.
“It will help, but it will be a time of serious belt-tightening,” Hutchinson said.
As I noted Sunday, the state is better fixed for spare cash than a national study appeared to indicate.
The state provided me these figures on various unallocated funds, a total of some $657 million not counting a large fund held by the attorney general in settlement of lawsuits (money once controlled by the legislature but now left more to Leslie Rutledge’s control. It currently holds $1.7 million)
General Revenue Allotment Reserve Fund – $173,610,631.96
Quick Action Closing Fund – $90,994,662.23
Restricted Reserve Balance – $42,274,039.00
Long Term Reserve – $152,585,491.00
Budget Stabilization – $200,000,000.00 (prior to the $30 million for COVID-19 response announced last week
ALSO: An investments executive tells me the state treasury holds some $4 billion in investments (bonds generally) that is used to pay income tax refunds when due and replenished when taxes are paid.
Earlier in the day, the Arkansas Health Department updated the coronavirus count and put it at 174, against 165 yesterday, in 33 counties. UPDATE: Later, the number was increased to 197 in 34 counties. AND STILL LATER: the number rose to 201.
The number positive came in 1,132 tests.
A jump of only nine was good news against recent double-digit daily increases, but the numbers depend to a great extent on the number of tests taken and completed and more rolled in.
The governor began the briefing by saying negative results had been done in some of the most recent nursing home tests. He also said delivery of medical gear was in motion and he saw it as good news even though “it’s a day by day thing.” He again avoided direct comment on the growing unhappiness among states about Donald Trump’s refusal to have the federal government assume control of the supply chain of critical goods.,
Health Director Smith said state data now shows five people have met the standard for recovery from coronavirus. He said it was very good news that only one additional negative test had resulted from the comprehensive testing of three nursing homes where patients were infected. He said 22 people had been hospitalized of the 174 infected, 14 in ICU.
Smith also announced a decision to temporarily close barber and beauty shops, nail salons and tattoo studios.
Smith also issued a “word of caution” about a combination of drugs approved for other uses, particularly a malarial drug, because it has not been approved for COVID-19. The combination could cause serious harm and there’s not strong evidence of the value of the drug combinations, which Donald Trump has been touting, Smith said. The Trump statements have caused a run on the drug and thus a shortage for people helped by it, such as lupus patients.
This problem was reflected by comments by medical people at Little Rock’s coronavirus task force later in the afternoon. Unwise prescriptions were written, it was said. Dr. Dean Kumpuris blamed some of this on doctors prescribing for their families.