Arkansas nearing crisis level on highway funding needs
It is estimated that Americans use the highway system to make 90 percent of all trips. And close to 70 percent of all our nationʼs goods are transported by trucks on our highways.
Making sure our infrastructure can support our growing needs is a costly endeavor. Currently, the majority of highway funding in Arkansas is supported by taxes on fuel. Fuel consumption continues to decline due to more efficient vehicles. Severance tax on natural gas exploration and fees for driverʼs licenses also support our roadways.
You will likely be hearing more about the current shortfall in highway funding over the next several weeks. The Governor has stated publicly that he intends to call an Extraordinary Session to address highway funding as well as healthcare reform. House and Senate leadership have both indicated they would like to see these issues addressed in separate sessions.
We will have a clearer indication on the timing of the potential sessions as we approach our Fiscal Session set for April 13.
In the meantime, we encourage Arkansans to review the findings by a working group created by the Governor last summer. The Governorʼs Working Group on Highway Funding is composed of members of the Arkansas House and Senate transportation committees, designees from integral state agencies and commissions, and individuals that have knowledge of the transportation and finance industries. This group of stakeholders first met in June 2015 and began meeting monthly in August 2015 to begin developing strategies to increase highway funding in the state.
In their final report the group recommended a variety of options to increase revenue. These recommendations include everything from raising fuel taxes to redirecting existing general revenue to highways.
The report states that $110 million is needed in the next three years to address the Highway and Transportation Departmentʼs most critical needs. The report also states the department will need an additional $150 million in six to nine years to address localized traffic congestion and reduce the number of weight restricted bridges and highways.
The House live-streamed the meetings of the working group. If you are interested to see how they came to their findings you can watch the meetings by visiting the Video Library on our website at www.arkansashouse.org.
From State Representative Milton Nicks