If the preliminary projects and figures are approved in Arkansas’ General Improvement Fund, the regional intermodal project could get $375,000 for planning and implementation.
Also, the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith is on the GIF list to receive $4.298 million.
The General Improvement Fund is used to provide money to one-time projects — agency and other ongoing items are funded through legislative approval of the Revenue Stabilization Act. The estimated budget surplus, which is used to monetize the GIF, is around $300 million. The rough description of the GIF process is that the Governor and Arkansas Legislative leaders in the Arkansas House and Senate may use the surplus funding to provide money to projects, programs, studies and/or events approved for appropriation during the General Assembly. The GIF list is voted on in the House and Senate in an omnibus-style vote.
Rep. Rick Green, R-Van Buren, successfully pushed through two bills (HB 1749, HB 1750) seeking $50,000 and $326,000 “ to support the development and implementation of regional intermodal freight facilities and operations in the west and northwest regions of Arkansas.” According to a list of GIF projects provided by Rep. Steve Harrelson, D-Texarkana, the two bills will receive $375,000 to fund both bills — or all but $1,000 of the appropriated amount.
The Western Arkansas Planning and Development District is shepherding a process to identify the viability of creating a formal organization that would develop, maintain and/or operate intermodal/port facilities. The goal is to create a structure and facilities “that would enhance regional freight management and advance the competitiveness of the region’s business,” according to WAPDD information. (Link here to a recent story about the regional intermodal effort, and link here to commentary from an official working on the effort.)
“If that is approved, and I have every reason to think it will, the money will support intermodal infrastructure there, which would benefit our entire region,” Green said Monday.
He said the funding support from the Legislative leadership was a “pleasant surprise."
The University of Arkansas at Fort Smith had legislative approval of $13.938 million appropriated for one-time funding, with $4.298 million to be funded from GIF. The biggest portion of the funding, if approved, is $2.5 million for library expansion. A bill (SB 453) appropriating a $9.5 million library expansion was not fully funded, but did get $760,000 from Legislative leaders.
The Arkansas Science and Technology Authority came out a winner.
Of the two bills appropriating $27.143 million for the authority, Gov. Beebe fully funded the appropriation. Funds used for seed capital investments ($2.31 million), support of the Arkansas Research Infrastructure Fund ($5 million), Arkansas Risk Capital Matching Fund for technology validation and enterprise development ($3 million), and research grant funding to leverage more federal research funds ($3 million).
Other interesting projects funded:
• $50 million, Quick Action Closing Fund to provide incentives to attract new business and economic development to Arkansas, SB 438.
• $10 million, grants for the Alternative Fuels Development Program, HB 1513.
• $8 million, construction of a nanotechnology research center in Fayetteville at the University of Arkansas, HB 1501.
• $1.825 million to support rural health care improvement efforts, SB 387.