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.