The deadline for additional signatures for a November campaign to raise the state’s severance tax will pass and the effort will come to an end for now.
Sheffield Nelson said in an interview on Monday (Aug. 20) with Talk Business that the campaign really ended a few weeks ago when he suspended the effort.
Nelson made that move nearly a month ago after nearly 70% of the 69,774 signatures he submitted for his proposal to raise the state’s severance tax to a flat 7% rate were declared invalid. He needed to collect another 41,000 valid signatures by August 20 to make the ballot for November.
“We got it stuck to us so early,” Nelson said. “We kind of put it to rest.”
Nelson said that another 12,000 to 15,000 signatures trickled in after he announced the campaign’s suspension, but he wasn’t planning to turn them over to the Secretary of State’s office for additional counting.
He also lamented that the high level of invalid signatures hampered his effort. Nelson said he hoped efforts to investigate potential petition fraud will bring any wrongdoers to justice.
As for a future campaign to raise the severance tax, Nelson said he hopes to see the effort revived.
“I have to look at it realistically. I think the real losers are the people of the state of Arkansas,” said Nelson regarding the aborted effort. “It certainly is something that I or someone else should take up in the future.”
Opponents of the measure, Arkansans for Jobs and Affordable Energy (AJAE), said the lack of signatures showed a lack of public support for the measure.
“The fact Mr. Nelson fell so short of the signature requirement shows Arkansans were not supportive of a tax increase that would jeopardize thousands of Arkansas jobs and threaten a vital part of the state’s economy,” said Randy Zook, chairman of AJAE. “I applaud the people of Arkansas for recognizing the harmful impact Mr. Nelson’s severance tax measure would have had on our state.”