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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Budget cuts of about $1 million each to Arkansas libraries and for senior citizen centers will be restored with money from the state's Rainy Day Fund, according to legislative leaders.
The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (http://bit.ly/1YXZdMK ) reported Saturday that Senate President Pro Tem Jonathan Dismang, R-Searcy, and House Speaker Jeremy Gillam, R-Judsonia, said the agreement was reached with Gov. Asa Hutchinson, also a Republican.
Funding for public libraries was reduced last year from $5.6 million to $4.6 million and the Department of Human Services' Aging and Adult Services Division was cut from $17.6 million to $16.5 million. Members of the House then directed $1 million in one-time funding to offset cuts to the senior centers.
Democratic lawmakers have pressed to restore the funding for public libraries, saying it led to a reduction of services, particularly for rural Arkansans.
Sen. David Burnett, D-Osceola, said earlier this week that libraries are more than a place where books are kept, especially in rural Arkansas where they provide access to computers and the Internet.
"Our libraries are essential to the needs of our people," Burnett said.
In a written statement, Sen. Bobby Pierce, D-Sheridan, praised the agreement.
"This is a great example of what we can accomplish when we put aside partisan differences and focus on what's best for our communities," Pierce wrote.
Rep. Camille Bennett, D-Lonoke, has proposed taking $1 million in surplus funds in each the current and the next fiscal years and transferring it to the state library public school fund.
"I'll definitely be pushing next year to restore (the funding) permanently," she said. "It is hard to operate a library if you can't count on the funding."
The Rainy Day Fund currently has about $31 million and Dismang said legislative leaders and Hutchinson have agreed to use a portion of the state's more than $50 million in surplus funds to help replenish the fund.
Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com
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