Gov. Mike Beebe delivered his final regular session speech to the 89th General Assembly with a big focus on the state Medicaid program. Beebe disclosed that a one-time $300 million funding gap for Medicaid had shrunk and that growth of the state health care program for the poor had curbed to its slowest rate in 25 years.
Beebe also replayed his major arguments for expanding Medicaid. He said that expanding Medicaid with the help of federal funding would help the working poor, support small business growth and save rural hospitals.
Other items proposed by Beebe:
• An increase in school funding.
• Increased educational and work opportunities for military families.
• Funding restoration for the Forestry Commission.
• More money for Corrections.
• A modest increase in funding for higher education.
• A 2 percent cost-of-living adjustment for state employees.
AEDC director on superprojects
Arkansas Economic Development Director Grant Tennille said the state is in the running for an economic development superproject and that legislation will be required to secure the deal. In his address to lawmakers, Gov. Mike Beebe suggested a big deal was in the works.
"I’ve spoken enough and enough people know that we are in the running for an advanced manufacturing project with an investment value north of $1 billion. A large number of employees, a good company," Tennille said. "And, we are increasingly confident that we will be back to the Legislature very quickly, very likely to trigger Amendment 82."
Amendment 82 is the state’s superproject amendment, which allows general obligation bonds to be issued to finance infrastructure for large-scale industrial projects that meet certain spending and employment thresholds.
Former House speaker named to highway commission
Gov. Mike Beebe named former House Speaker Robert Moore of Arkansas City to the Arkansas Highway Commission. Moore was a leader on trying to develop a roads program during his term as House speaker in the 2011 legislative session.
Moore, 68, grew up in southeastern Arkansas and graduated from Ouachita Baptist University. Moore served two decades as Director of the Alcoholic Beverage Control and was elected to the Arkansas House of Representatives in 2006. Moore replaces Madison Murphy on the Highway Commission. His appointment expires Jan. 14, 2023.
Wal-Mart to hire veterans, invest $50 billion in U.S. manufacturing
Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world’s largest retailer, said it plans to hire more than 100,000 veterans in the U.S. over the next five years. Most of the veterans will be placed in the company’s stores and clubs, and some will be employed in distribution centers.
The retailer will start issuing job offers to veterans during Memorial Day in May. Wal-Mart also said its U.S. operations will spend an additional $50 billion on domestic sourcing during the next 10 years to boost American manufacturing.
Baptist Health, 200 physicians partner on efficiency initiative
Little Rock-based Baptist Health and a group of more than 200 physicians announced a major initiative Tuesday aimed at reducing health care costs through utilizing technology for efficiency, constructing "pay-for-performance" contracts, and developing more collaborative medical relationships. The announcement will lead to a new organization called Baptist Health Physician Partners.
Home Bancshares hits record profits
Home Bancshares, the parent company of Centennial Bank, posted record fourth quarter and full year profits. The Conway-based bank holding company announced net income of $16.9 million in the fourth quarter and $63 million for the full fiscal year.
Financial highlights noted that the bank had total deposits of $3.48 billion at Dec. 31, 2012, compared to $2.86 billion at Dec. 31, 2011. Total assets were $4.24 billion at Dec. 31 compared to $3.60 billion at Dec. 31, 2011.
Roby Brock, a freelance journalist based in Little Rock, writes weekly for the Arkansas News Bureau. His weekly television program airs at 10 p.m. Sundays in Central and Northwest Arkansas. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org; his Web site address is www.talkbusiness.net.