The Arkansas Department of Transportation (ArDOT) will host 12 public meetings across the state through April on the extension of a half-cent sales tax for highway projects. ArDOT also will receive feedback on which projects to be funded by the money generated from the tax.
The first of the 12 meetings will take place Jan. 21 in Monticello. Some of the others will be in Fort Smith, Jonesboro, Maumelle and Springdale. Attendees will have an opportunity to view displays and speak to ArDOT staff, including director Scott Bennett. The open house meetings will be followed by a brief formal presentation on the condition of the state highway system and how extending the sales tax would impact system preservation and work on new projects.
The existing tax generates nearly $300 million annually — $205 million for ArDOT, $43 million for cities and $43 million for counties. About the same amount would be generated if the tax extension is approved. Voters in the Nov. 3, 2020, general election will decide whether to extend the tax.
In early 2019, Gov. Asa Hutchinson proposed a $300 million plan for highways, and part of the program included $95 million that Arkansas legislators approved to come from increases to the state fuel tax and vehicle registration fees and casino revenue. The remaining amount would come from the money generated by the half-cent sales tax, if approved.
In November, Hutchinson and supporters of the extension launched a campaign for Issue 1. If it is approved, the ballot item would permanently extend the half-cent sales tax that is set to expire in January 2023.
Following are the dates and locations for the public meetings, and all of the meetings start at 5:30 p.m.:
- Jan. 21, UAM Fine Arts Center, 371 University Drive, Monticello
- Jan. 23, The Academies of West Memphis — Performing Arts Center, 501 W. Broadway, West Memphis
- Jan. 28, Harrison High School — Performing Arts Center, 925 Goblin Drive, Harrison
- Jan. 30, Trinity Baptist Church, 3115 Trinity Boulevard, Texarkana
- Feb. 11, U of A Rich Mountain — Ouachita Center, 1100 College Drive, Mena
- Feb. 13, The Blue Lion, 101 N. Second St., Fort Smith
- Feb. 20, Crossgate Church, 3100 E. Grand Ave., Hot Springs
- March 9, Jess Odom Community Center — Gymnasium, 1100 Edgewood Drive, Maumelle
- March 10, The Jones Center, 922 E. Emma Ave., Springdale
- March 12, UACCB — Independence Hall, Batesville
- March 31, ASU — 1st National Bank Arena — Auditorium, 217 Olympic Drive, Jonesboro
- April 2, El Dorado Municipal Auditorium, 100 W. Eighth St., El Dorado