Highway Bond Election Set For Tuesday

by Roby Brock ([email protected]) 92 views 

Are you ready for the election season? It’s here. No, not next year’s big elections, but a special election.

On Tuesday, November 8, you’ll have the chance to vote for or against a highway bond renewal program. It’s been on the books since 1999 and supporters like Highway Commission chairman Madison Murphy say its renewal will allow for about 400 miles in interstate repairs without raising your taxes.

It also is expected to spark job creation across the state.

“The key in this is that it is a way to create — if you believe the numbers — it would be about a billion dollar construction program of which $575 million would be bonded indebtedness,” said Murphy. “According to a lot of statisticians, this could well create somewhere north of 25,000 to 28,000 jobs in the state of Arkansas — all without raising taxes.”

“These are not government jobs, these are jobs in our construction industry, which desperately needs the help,” he added.

There are some TEA Party groups that warn the state shouldn’t take on this debt – although it has been carrying it and paying it down for a decade – but Murphy says those concerns shouldn’t be there.

“A lot of questions have been raised… I would tell you that I don’t have a crystal ball, but I would tell you that in the last program we were able to complete the work in 5 years.  And in the next 4 years, the cost of construction, or the construction cost index in Arkansas, actually went up almost 100%. Under that scenario, if we had a repeat of that, we would really only be able to rehabilitate half of the mileage,” said Murphy.

Move Arkansas Forward is the ballot committee formed to support the 2011 Interstate Rehabilitation Program. The group has been working to explain that part of the revenue stream for the bond program will come from expected future GARVEE (Grant Anticipation Revenue Vehicles) funds, which are a category of federal highway dollars the state will get regardless of the bond vote.

Another dedicated revenue stream is a four-cent diesel fuel tax that remains in effect no matter the outcome of Tuesday’s election.

Late last week, Move Arkansas Forward revealed that it had received endorsements from more than seventy municipalities, counties, mayors, and county judges as well as local and statewide organizations.