Gov. Hutchinson kicks off highway funding campaign

by Roby Brock ([email protected]) 726 views 

With less than a year until the November 2020 election, Gov. Asa Hutchinson and stakeholders for better roads officially launched their campaign for Issue 1, a permanent extension of a half-cent sales tax that is set to expire in 2022.

On Friday (Nov. 15), Hutchinson kicked off the “Vote for Roads. Vote for Issue 1” campaign. Issue 1, referred by legislators to voters would extend the half-cent sales tax for roads in perpetuity when it expires in 2022.

The half-cent sales tax is expected to raise about $205 million annually for the state and roughly $100 million for cities and counties. It is part of a larger highway funding package approved earlier this year in the Arkansas legislative session.

In the session, state lawmakers – with the support of the governor – supported the sales tax referral along with proposals that raised gasoline and diesel taxes, casino revenues, and additional fees on hybrid and electric vehicles.

The governor was joined by groups from all four corners of the state, including mayors, county judges, small-business owners, and industry groups from the trucking association to the state chamber to representatives of the agriculture community.

“A vote for Issue 1 means better roads, a stronger economy, and a safer Arkansas—without raising taxes,” Hutchinson said. “It will benefit every resident and every small business that calls Arkansas home, and I am delighted to lead this effort.”

Passage of Issue 1 will keep a revenue stream of about $205 million a year in place for funding to maintain, improve, and construct nearly 7,000 miles of interstate and highway miles and repair and replace dangerous bridges throughout the state.

Supporters said it will underwrite thousands of jobs each year and provide more than $8.2 billion in economic activity over the next decade. Cities and counties, which are currently benefiting from the half-cent sales tax for roads that expires in 2022, would continue to receive 15% respectively of the funding raised by the tax for local road and infrastructure projects.

Issue 1 supporters also unveiled their web site for the campaign, which can be viewed here.

Gov. Hutchinson is a guest on this week’s TV edition of Talk Business & Politics. He discusses the politics of the highway program and the Little Rock School District situation. The interview will air Sunday morning statewide.