State revenue higher than expected

Last Friday during the Arkansas Legislative Council meeting, we considered reports of 15 standing subcommittees, heard the May 2020 monthly General Revenue Report and considered communications from 10 different state department entities.  Like most every meeting at the Capitol, it was live-streamed and is still available for viewing on the Arkansas House website  You can also check out the legislative calendar for upcoming meetings, by going to  
In some good news, we learned that the state’s financial situation is less dire than was projected in March at the outset of the COVID-19 crisis.  Back then we cut $353.1 million from the state’s budget, as we expected significant losses in sales tax revenue and reduced tax collections in fiscal year  2020, which ends June 30. We now know to expect over $300 million more in tax collections this fiscal year.  This is especially good news for our state’s public colleges, where a $43.3 million loss was originally anticipated.  
On Friday we also approved expenditures for special maintenance in our Arkansas State Parks for the next fiscal year, FY 2021. Lake Chicot will see $143,540 in upgrades, while Cane Creek will get $119,000.  If you’d like a copy of all our State Park maintenance projects, just let me know.
A few weeks ago, I reminded you of the upcoming deadline for the Arkansas Academic Challenge Scholarship. That deadline has been extended to August 1.
 The COVID-19 crisis has impacted this scholarship program.  Unlike in prior years, students who are already receiving the scholarship, have a sufficient number of hours, and have earned satisfactory academic progress before March 27 are automatically eligible for the scholarship for the 2020 fall semester. 
Traditional students must score at least 19 on the ACT to qualify for the scholarship. The latest ACT score accepted by Arkansas Department of Higher Education will be from the July testing. Students who have yet to achieve a score of 19 on the ACT may take the Accuplacer test remotely as a substitute. 
The Arkansas Scholarship Lottery also funds another valuable scholarship.  The Workforce Challenge Scholarship was created in the 2017 legislative session.  Its purpose is for workforce training in high demand areas of healthcare, information technology, and industry. Classes are not limited to credit-bearing programs. Non-credit, workforce-training classes that fit into the three above categories may also qualify. 
To meet minimum eligibility requirements, those applying for the Workforce Challenge Scholarship must be 1) an Arkansas resident, 2) a high school graduate or received high school equivalency, 3) cannot be a current recipient of the Academic Challenge Scholarship, and 4) be accepted for admission into an approved program as defined by ADHE. The degree list for the 2020-2021 academic year can be found on our Arkansas House of Representatives website
Arkansas Workforce Challenge is a non-renewable grant. Students who successfully complete their program of study will be allowed to reapply for award in another eligible program. Students who receive funding from Workforce Challenge and do not successfully complete their program will be allowed to reapply one time.
The Workforce Challenge Award will be the cost of a certificate program or program of study not to exceed $800. Students must apply at least 30 days prior to enrollment in an eligible program.  There is no deadline to apply; however applications should be submitted at least 30 days prior to the start of the program.
To apply for either scholarship visit the Arkansas Department of Higher Education’s website, and complete the Arkansas YOUniversal Scholarship Application. The online YOUniversal application is your one-stop-shop for state and lottery-funded financial aid. 
What would you like to hear more about in this column?  Please let me know by calling me at (870) 460-0773, emailing me at, or by messaging me through my Facebook page @BurchforAR.
Thank you for the privilege of representing the people of District 9.  I look forward to hearing from you.  Please stay safe, practice social distancing, and wear your mask indoors when you can’t social distance.

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