Minutes before threatening weather and possible tornadoes moved through the capital city, House Speaker Robert Moore unveiled his plans for a major highway program that could be a political lightning rod.

In fact, an hour after his press conference, lightning struck the capitol dome.

Moore (D-Arkansas City) has been negotiating with interest groups and stakeholders for weeks to find a plan that he felt would meet funding needs for major road improvements while balancing political interests crucial to successfully passing a program.

Moore’s highway plan would include a referral to voters for a 10-year, half-cent sales tax to build and repair four-lane roads throughout the state. The tax increase would be referred to voters in the general election of 2012, Moore said.

If approved, the revenue from the tax hike would be split with 70% being directed to state highways, 15% being directed for county roads and 15% being allocated for city road needs.

Rep. Jonathan Barnett (R-Siloam Springs) has filed a shell bill for this program, HJR 1001, which is expected to raise $1.8 billion for the roads work.

Another proposal will be carried by Moore, but has yet to be filed. It would refer to voters in November 2012 a five-cent diesel fuel tax increase and be used to expand a $575 million bond program to $1 billion for interstate maintenance and upgrades.

State diesel fuel taxes currently stand at 22.6 cents per gallon, with 4 cents dedicated to the interstate bond program. If the nickel increase is approved, 9 cents would be dedicated to the existing bond program.

Moore contends that the two referrals have the support of the Arkansas Highway Commission, Arkansas Municipal League, Arkansas Trucking Association and the Association of Arkansas Counties.

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