LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – It’s been more than a year in the making, but starting Tuesday, Little Rock voters were finally able to share their two cents on a new sales tax.
Early voting on the proposed Rebuild the Rock penny sales tax increase kicked off Tuesday morning, with over 1300 Little Rock neighbors voting yay or nay on the tax bump on just the first day.
But compared to previous sales tax proposals, Rebuild the Rock is unique in several ways. In fact, one of the major issues plaguing the Little Rock City Board’s approval was how different this sales tax was from its predecessor ten years ago, the 3/8ths Capital Sales Tax increase.
According to Little Rock Vice Mayor Lance Hines, one of the differences is what is focused on in terms of spending.
“Our priorities in this sales tax are upside down,” Hines explained, citing one of the reasons he was an outspoken opponent of the mayor’s proposal.
Another was what he believes is a lack of input from board members and the community.
The Capital Sales Tax prioritized public safety in its spending, while Rebuild the Rock has much of its funding going to things like general park improvements and recreation, although public safety is also a spending category.
This idea of “general” improvements is another comparison drawn between 2021 and 2011. “It was very laid out, very specific,” Hines said of the 2011 proposal, “and the specificity with this [Rebuild the Rock] program is not there.” For example, 2011’s sales tax listed spending items such as “52 police officers” or “4 animal services positions”.
The sales tax voted on in 2021 was criticized for including language such as “public safety technology and operations” without listing specific items.
However, Mayor Frank Scott, Jr. believes his proposal is clear to voters and says the newly funded projects backed by the sales tax will improve the city for everyone.
“We’re talking about rebuilding our city for the entire city and ensure that we also focus on areas that have been overlooked,” Scott, Jr. said after casting his own ballot in early voting.
Scott argues that issues like police recruitment are already covered by the yearly budget and Rebuild the Rock projects focus on gaps not covered by other sources, gaps he says will put the rock ahead.
Early voting for the Little Rock special election stretches until September 13th. Polling locations can be found HERE