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Ark. officials revise forecast, surplus figures

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) -- Arkansas finance officials on Wednesday predicted the state will end the next fiscal year with a $13.8 million surplus, despite a series of tax cuts lawmakers enacted during this year's legislative session.

The Department of Finance and Administration said it expected the state to end the current fiscal year with nearly $4.87 billion in net available revenues. That's about $38.2 million higher than state officials predicted last year. The state's fiscal year begins July 1.

In addition to next year's projected surplus, the revised forecast for the current year means the state will have $38.2 million in unused surplus money that lawmakers could tap during next year's legislative session, DFA Director Richard Weiss said.

Lawmakers last week approved legislation divvying up $170 million in surplus money for various one-time needs around the state.

The department also said the net available revenues for the coming fiscal year would reach nearly $4.96 billion, which would be $10.3 million higher than originally predicted. The revised forecast factors in about $10 million in tax cuts that were part of a package of reductions lawmakers approved during this year's fiscal session.

Parts of the package set to take effect in the coming year include reductions in the state's income tax and an income tax exemption for armed service members' pay. The reductions in the package are eventually expected to cost the state more than $140 million a year.

The department said the state next year is expected to fund all three categories in the Revenue Stabilization Act, which prioritizes state spending based on revenues. It also means the state would be able to put $18.9 million in a "Rainy Day Fund" that can be tapped for emergencies, with $13.8 million left over as surplus.