Audio – Senator Keith Ingram Reporting News From 92nd General Assembly
March 7th, 2019 • News

March 7, 2019

  • The highway funding program is one of several bills that I’ve co-sponsored, which are now in the final stages of the legislative process.
  • Another measure I’m pushing for would grant about 515 state troopers a five percent salary increase. It would be granted in addition to any COLA or merit pay increase the troopers have coming.
  • I’m hopeful because the Joint Budget Committee endorsed my amendment to the State Police appropriation that authorizes salary increases.
  • When it comes to state trooper salaries, Arkansas has to be more competitive with other states. We have to reduce our turnover rate, or the cost of training new troopers will drain budgets that can be better used for law enforcement.
  • Every year we lose 27 to 29 troopers to other agencies. That amounts to a 38 percent turnover rate. It takes almost a year-and-a-half for training, so every year we’re investing too many resources replacing troopers who we should be keeping on the force.
  • The two components of the highway program will be finalized soon. The first will generate about $59 million a year for state highway projects and $12.6 million each a year for both cities and counties.
  • It is a combination of new revenue sources, including new taxes paid by the four new casinos that voters approved last November.
  • The second part of the highway program will depend on Arkansas voters. The legislature will place on next year’s ballot a proposal to permanently collect the half-cent sales tax for highways.
  • Voters initially approved the half-cent sales tax in 2012 and it is scheduled to expire in 2023. If Arkansas citizens vote to extend it, the half-cent will generate $205 million a year for state highways, and $44 million a year for both counties and municipalities.
  • My bill to provide tax incentives for business investment in Opportunity Zones has received final approval and is now Act 201.
  • It is one of several bills the legislature is enacting to promote the creation of well-paid jobs in economically distressed areas of Arkansas.
  • Also this week, the legislature completed work on stronger ethics laws that I sponsored. Elected officials will not be able to register as lobbyists, in any jurisdiction, beginning from the date of their election.
  • Also, the Ethics Commission can impose higher fines for violating campaign finance laws. The maximum fine goes up from $2,000 to $3,500.
  • Finally, I’m working to close loopholes and further clean up the complicated procedure that citizens’ group must follow in order to place issues on the ballot.
  • Every step of the process needs reform, from gathering, certifying and submitting signatures, to challenging the legal validity of ballot titles.
      Click to Listen - Audio Recording from March 7, 2019