In our latest Talk Business-Hendrix College Poll, we tested two proposed highway initiatives to see if either has any traction, but at the present time supporters of the plans clearly have an uphill battle.
House Speaker Robert Moore (D-Arkansas City) wants the legislature to refer a proposed question and a proposed constitutional amendment to raise taxes for roads.
HB 1902 and HJR 1001 are tandem bills dealing with Speaker Moore’s effort to improve highway funding. HB 1902 calls for a trucking association-supported nickel increase in the diesel fuel tax to extend an interstate bond program, subject to voter approval. HJR 1001 by former Highway Commissioner Rep. Jonathan Barnett (R-Siloam Springs) is still in its shell form, but will ultimately be a voter-referred half-cent sales tax increase for four-lane highways throughout the state.
The Talk Business-Hendrix College Poll of 659 state voters was conducted on Monday night, February 28. It has a margin of error of +/- 3.8%. The two highway questions were as follows:
Q: Arkansas legislators are considering several highway funding options to build and maintain roads. One proposal would increase diesel fuel taxes by 5 cents to pay for Interstate highway needs. Do you support a five-cent diesel fuel tax increase for this purpose?
12% Don’t Know
Q: Another highway funding proposal would include raising the sales tax in Arkansas by a half-cent to build and repair four-lane highways across the state. Do you support a half-cent diesel fuel tax increase for this purpose?
7% Don’t Know
Dr. Jay Barth, with the Hendrix College Department of Politics and International Relations, helped craft and analyze the poll.
Barth said that highway plans have been successful and unsuccessful in recent decades. He points to former Gov. Mike Huckabee’s successful GARVEE bond for Interstate repairs program in 1999, but also notes that his predecessor, former Gov. Jim Guy Tucker, failed trying to pass a major roads program. Moore’s efforts face an uphill battle.
"Both of these proposals are rejected by the public," said Barth. "Here’s a case where people are really showing an indication that they don’t want a tax increase."
Roby Brock, editor of Talk Business, said the poll results may give some legislators pause to refer the measures for a public vote, but it also gives supportive interest groups a baseline for what will be needed.
"There is already a contingency of anti-tax legislators opposed to the two proposals and these results are likely to fuel their arguments," said Brock. "However, for the cities, counties, truckers and other groups pushing for new and improved roads, this is at least a reality check that public opinion will need heavy persuasion to support a tax increase for more highway causes."
This poll was conducted by Talk Business Research and Hendrix College. The poll, which has a margin of error of +/- 3.8%, was completed using IVR survey technology on Monday, February 28, 2011 among 659 registered Arkansas voters statewide.
All media outlets are welcome to reprint, reproduce, or rebroadcast information from this poll with proper attribution to Talk Business and Hendrix College.
For interviews, Brock can be reached by email at email@example.com. Barth can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.