Arkansas Senate approves fuel cleanup bill

| 2/11/2005

The Arkansas Senate narrowly passed a bill Feb. 8 that would raise fuel taxes by one penny per 10 gallons of fuel purchased.

The bill, which would grant the Pollution Control and Ecology Commission the power to raise the fee charged to petroleum wholesalers, could generate up to $3 million more a year to replenish the petroleum storage tank trust fund. This fund helps clean up sites where fuel tanks and fuel lines have leaked and created an environmental problem that exceeds the fuel vendor’s ability to pay for cleanup.

Arkansas law now allows for two-tenths of 1 cent for each gallon of fuel to be charged to petroleum wholesalers for cleanup.

SB231, sponsored by Sen. Jerry Bookout, D-Jonesboro, passed in a 19-9 vote, one vote more than the minimum needed for passage. It now moves to the House for consideration.

Afterward, Sen. David Bisbee, R-Rogers, who voted for the bill, said the fact the bill narrowly got through the Senate illustrates how difficult it’s going to be to raise taxes, even to improve highways, during this legislative session.

“It’s going to be darn hard to raise taxes this year,” Bisbee told the Arkansas Democrat Gazette. “If you think you are going to raise a tax in this Legislature, you are smoking funny stuff … I think the best shot the highway program has got is for the highway department to come up with some kind of a new tax and refer it to the people.