Audio – Senator Keith Ingram Reporting News From 91st General Assembly
February 14th, 2019 • News

February 14, 2019

  • So far this session, two major highway programs have been proposed. One already has a considerable head start on the other, even though it was introduced last.
  • The first highway plan was filed by a northwest Arkansas legislator who is frustrated by the construction projects that slow traffic and make roads unsafe.
  • I appreciate his frustrations, because in eastern Arkansas driving slowly past orange barrels feels like a way of life.
  • However, that proposal never gained much traction because it depended heavily on a very unpopular concept. It would have diverted revenue from schools, higher education and law enforcement in order to pay for highway improvements.
  • The second highway plan was presented earlier this week, and it immediately raced to the front of the pack.
  • It is supported not only by the governor, but also by major private industry groups with an interest in better transportation, such as the Good Roads Council and the truckers’ association.
  • It calls for the permanent extension of the current half-cent sales tax that goes for highway projects, which would require the approval of Arkansas voters in next year’s election.
  • The sales tax would generate about $205 million a year. The governor’s plan would raise another $95 million with a combination of higher rates on gas and diesel, higher registration fees for electric and hybrid vehicles, and the dedication of taxes collected from casino gambling.
  • In all, the state Transportation Department would get an additional $300 million in revenue. Another $113 million would be shared among cities and counties, according to the traditional method of dividing highway dollars.
  • The highway program may undergo significant changes, but for now I’m gratified that the legislature and the governor’s office appear committed to passing a major highway program.
  • It’s an investment that will create jobs and strengthen our economy for years to come.
      Click to Listen - Audio Recording from February 14, 2019