Proposed legislation in Arkansas requires voter approval

LITTLE ROCK (AP) — Proposed Arkansas legislation that would raise more than $200 million annually to pay for road construction would require voter approval.

The two bills are sponsored by Republican Rep. Dan Douglasd.

The Arkansas Highway Maintenance and Bond Act of 2017 would allow the state Highway Commission to issue bonds for 20 years beginning April 2018. The issuance of bonds would require a popular vote.

The second bill would levy a 6.5 percent sales tax on the wholesale price of gasoline and diesel as well as require the governor to call a special election or refer the matter to the November general election.

“I have always said that any new highway funding proposal that includes a new source of revenue should be referred to the people for an up or down vote,” Gov. Asa Hutchinson said in a statement. “This bill addresses a long term need in our state and I am glad the Legislature will consider this proposal as a possible solution.”

Last year, the governor asked the Arkansas Good Roads Foundation to build support for a permanent source of highway funding for better roads. The foundation said it aims to promote adequate funding for a “safe and efficient” highway system, to foster economic growth and private-sector jobs.

The nonprofit released a statewide survey in January that showed support for making a temporary half-percent sales tax permanent as a way to address the state’s highway needs.

Craig Douglass, the executive director of Good Roads, said making the statewide sales tax permanent wasn’t likely due to requiring a constitutional amendment.

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