Gov. Sarah Sanders is trumpeting her budget for the new fiscal year as state officials turn their attention to the fiscal session that begins April 10. 

Sanders said in a statement this morning that she had submitted a budget to the Joint Budget Committee of the state Legislature that increases the state budget, though by less than previous budgets. 

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“This budget’s greatest accomplishment is its size: only a 1.76% increase over last fiscal year. This is far below the 3% year-over-year increase our state has averaged in the recent past,” Sanders said. 

Whether the 1.76% increase amounts to being “far below” previous ones is up for debate. 

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Sanders said the budget “puts an end to government’s spiraling growth” and said Arkansans want their tax dollars “spent wisely, not wastefully.” 

Talk of government budgets always brings to mind the bit from the late comedian George Carlin who explained the difference between “my stuff” (what’s important to me) and “your shit” (what’s important to someone else). The importance of government programs is a matter of perspective too. 

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Want to expand Medicaid for new mothers? Let’s get on that yesterday. (Sanders isn’t a fan). Want to send tax money to private schools that don’t play by the same rules as everyone else? Sanders likes that one, of course. 

The governor extolled her education overhaul, the LEARNS Act, and said she’s putting an additional $100 million in to raise starting teacher pay to $50,000 a year and expand education freedom accounts. Sanders also said she’s throwing in an additional $2 million for a matching program at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. 

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The budget also increases funding for the state police, allocating $3.8 million to fund an additional trooper school. 

In a separate announcement today, the governor called for giving state employees a one-time 3% raise. It’s part of an overhaul to the state employee pay plan she is calling Arkansas Forward. Sanders’ announcement today did not provide a lot of details on the overhaul, how much the 3% raises will cost or where the money will come from. The plan will raise every state employee’s pay to at least $15 an hour by July 1, she said.

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Sanders said she will ask the Legislature to pass her permanent Arkansas Forward state employee income plan in the 2025 regular session but is asking them to fund the 3% increase and boost everyone to at least $15 an hour in the meantime.

If you’re inclined to keep up with all this, the Joint Budget Committee will hold its pre-fiscal session budget hearings today, tomorrow and Friday. You can view the agendas and supporting documents on the Legislature’s website.

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The first bills can be filed on Monday. The session can last up to 30 days and can be extended once for 15 days.