Finding solutions to highway funding a priority

Finding solutions to highway funding a priority

It never ceases to amaze me how these politicians and bureaucrats plot and scheme ways of convincing us it is their way or the highway. Speaking of highways I was amused to hear there is a brand new study that shows investing more money, or paying more taxes, in Arkansas highways would create more than a billion dollars in economic growth across the state.

Now Ralph, if you haven’t had your head stuck in the sand over the last few years you are very well aware how two governors, one a Democrat and the other a Republican, two special highway commissions and even the bureaucrats controlling our state’s highway commission have tossed around this political hot potato hoping that someone, some way would shove this idea of raising gasoline taxes is critical in addressing the state’s serious road, highway and bridge projects.

This latest study contrived by a bunch of so-called experts calling themselves the American Road and Transportation Builders Association seems to be supported by a group of people identifying themselves as the Arkansas Good Roads Foundation as well as the State Chamber of Commerce.

I guess we’re suppose to take this study for face value and believe that investing $478 million into highways statewide each year would not only increase economic growth but also create almost 6,000 new jobs. Whoopdee- doo, Ralph, and I suppose I am to just jump up and down and do somersaults.

The State Chamber of Commerce president has even came out saying that adequate transpiration infrastructure is essential to Arkansas’ ability to attract and keep industry here. Now Ralph, you and I should both agree with that assumption but let me point out that there are many ways to raise new road revenues without simply relying solely on raising fuel prices to record levels.

Furthermore Ralph, let me point out that I agree the current method of paying for our roads and highways is antiquated and inadequate based on the more fuel efficient cars, trucks and hybrid and electric vehicles.

Here’s the kicker to this revelation by these advocates for more highway funding. Right now they aren’t letting us khow where the additional funding will come from but, come on Ralph, we know that when these politicians gather in a couple of months for their Legislation session there will be plenty pityparties held hoping we’ll support their main idea to raise fuel taxes.

Let me give you a little history lesson on this subject Ralph and go back to the days of former Democrat Gov.

Mike Beebe who put together what was known as the Blue Ribbon Committee on Highway Finance in 2009.

Besides recommending indexing the current per-gallon tax on motor fuels to Arkansas’ Highway Construction Cost Index and allow us to vote on a temporary 10-year, 1/2 cent general sales tax it was also recommended that there be a 10-year phased-in transfer of the sales tax collected on the sale of new and used vehicles, tires, batteries and vehicle parts and services.

Then, when Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson took over he created this Arkansas Good Roads Foundation to work to build a consensus on addressing the state’s long-term highway needs.

Hutchinson has made it absolutely clear that he will not support any recommendation to transfer sales taxes collected on vehicle related expenses from the general fund to the highway coffers, which to me is an excellent option to consider.

I am curious to see just how these Republican lawmakers tackle this road funding dilemma in the next few months.

By Michael Coulter

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