LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Issue One is a major piece to the governor’s highway plan going forward as it could generate upwards of $300M for roads, but opponents of Issue One think this tax is political gamesmanship.
Issue One on the November ballot will make permanent the half-percent sales tax that was set to expire in June of 2023.
Supporters say this sales tax is crucial to Arkansas’ road maintenance budget going forward.
“We’re kind of in an environment now with a highway department where do you go on enhancements in a few miles with cars and a monkey for moving to electric vehicles and stuff that are Rotax which is from the gasoline is a declining source of revenue,” said Lance Eads, District 7.
Detractors to the proposed amendment say this tax was only meant to be temporary and that ARDOT could do better in prioritizing its budget and stretching it further.
“You should be upset about the state of your highways and your bridges because they have only been budgeting $190 million per year for 16,400 miles of State Road that’s less than 10% of their $2,600,000,000 2019 total operations budget,” said Ryan Norris.
The biggest argument presented is, does a tax belong in the state’s constitution? Supporters say it provides a permanent cash flow specifically for highways, those against don’t think it is a constitutional item.
“That’s the place that we set the structure for our state government and we enshrine individual rights that are very near and dear to us. It’s not for just the day-to-day operations of our tax policy,” said Norris
“This gives us something more permanent so that we have a little more consistency to be able to budget for planning down the road for highways,” said Lance
This tax proposes to help fund municipal and county road budgets also.
“We’ll talk about is that whole 70% of the money then go to the highway department 30% divided by this season Counties for the local projects,”
Revenue generated from act 416 of 2019, which adds three cents per gallon on gasoline, six cents for diesel, an increase in hybrid vehicle registration, and the tax revenue on casino gaming goes specifically towards highways as well.
So opponents of issue one believe this tax still won’t be enough and ARDOT will eventually ask for more.