Supporters of a half-cent sales tax for a four-lane highway network across the state addressed concerns to a Fort Smith crowd that the state's third largest metro area would not benefit from the $1.3 billion road program.
After questions were raised in a City Wire article last week about the lack of special funding from the bond program, Move Arkansas Forward campaign chairman Craig Douglass addressed Fort Smith business leaders on Friday.
The half-cent sales tax proposal will be on the November ballot. It is a legislature-referred ballot measure that will allow voters to decide a 10-year, temporary half-cent sales tax increase for four-lane highway construction and repairs.
Douglass began his address by referencing The City Wire report and the possibility that the proposed half-cent tax “could prove a tough sell.”
“I hope today we will prove that quote wrong, and I’m about to give you a little ammunition to do that,” Douglass said.
As part of that “ammunition,” Douglass referred to the fact that “with voter approval,” the tax will “be authorized to issue four-lane highway construction and Improvement General Obligation Bonds in an amount up to $1.3 billion, which, with existing revenue, will provide $1.8 billion for four-lane projects” during the next 10 years.
Douglass added that “approximately $670 milli
on” will be shared equally between all Arkansas cities and counties for local projects.
County and city turnback totals for Sebastian County are estimated at $26.362 million during a 10-year period (around $2.636 million annually), while county and city turnback totals for Crawford County are expected to hit $11.745 million (around $1.174 million annually).
While the Fort Smith region does receive its share of turnback money, critics of the plan point out that many areas of the state will receive special project funding totaling $1.548 billion in addition to the turnback monies that all counties and cities receive.
For example, county and city turnback totals for Benton and Washington counties combine at around $86 million, while county and city turnback totals for Pulaski County are expected to be $80.310 million.
Yet Northwest Arkansas and Central Arkansas will also receive $375 million and $648 million, respectively, in special project funding separate from turnback totals.
Sebastian and Crawford counties will not receive any special project funding.
Douglass told the crowd that the Fort Smith region was already benefitting from special turnback money from last November's highway bond program. He also highlighted other highway projects in the region.
Read more on the subject at this link.