Governor Mike Beebe will deliver his State of the State address this week to kick off the 2013 legislative session.
Channel 7's Scott Inman sat down with the governor to get a preview.
Lawmakers will face many issues in the upcoming legislative session, but one of the largest will likely be Medicaid, the Federal program that the state partially funds to cover health care costs for the disabled, the elderly and children in low income homes.
The wrangling over Medicaid will begin with how to pay for it short term.
"This is a serious enough issue that I think we ought to use some one-time money to help supplement where we are, and I've proposed using about $140 million 70 each year to help close that gap on that Medicaid shortfall," Beebe explained.
But House and Senate Republicans, who hold the majority for the first time, hint they may want to use more, or even all, of the surplus money.
"If I'm willing to use some of it, then I ought to be man enough to say I'm willing to listen to you about do you want to add some more to that, but you got to be careful, how much more do you add." Beebe said. "Then it becomes a matter of degree, you see. It becomes a matter of how far you're going to go with that one-time money, and therefore, the problems you're just kicking the can down the road on, two years down the road."
Gov. Beebe also wants to cut the grocery tax again.
It has already been cut from 6 percent down to 1.5 percent during his tenure.
But Mr. Beebe wants to take the number down even further to an eighth of a percent, contingent upon some of the state's other obligations being met or going away.
Some lawmakers want to consider other tax cuts; that could include income tax or taxes on manufacturers.
"If I can't even, on something that's my top priority, see how we can in good conscience do away with that right now, because of these other obligations, I don't know how you'd do something else," Beebe said. "We can't afford an income tax cut right now. We'd all like to see it. Social Security went back, kicked back in federally. Everybody wants something. But everybody wants somebody else to pay for it. Part of the reason Arkansas is one of four states that never got in trouble is we balance our budget."
There is a second part to the Medicaid issue: Medicaid expansion. The Federal Health Care Law includes adding more Americans to the rolls.
However, the Supreme Court ruled it must be optional for individual states and it will take 75 percent of lawmakers agreeing to it for Arkansas to do it.
Monday on Live at Five, Scott Inman will have why Gov. Beebe is on board in Part Two of his interview.