Truckers and other drivers in Arkansas would pay another
nickel each time they use plastic to pay for fuel at the pump under legislation
intended to help improve the state’s highways.
Rep. Phillip Jackson, R-Berryville, said his bill could be
an alternative source of revenue for a $1 billion highway bond program being
pushed by Gov. Mike Huckabee – or go into the state’s treasury if it couldn’t
be tied to road improvements.
“If we get some reasonable data and it looks like something
that’s viable, then I’ll talk to the governor about it and the highway
department to see if they’ll support it,” Jackson said.
Under the bill, fuel retailers would add 5 cents to each
purchase made by use of a credit or debit card, gift card or any other method
of electronic payment. It would not be a per-gallon fee.
Huckabee spokesman Rex Nelson said that the governor was
open to suggestions on financing highways, including Jackson’s bill – HB2838.
“While this isn’t our bill, the governor consistently has
said he will be open to any means of paying for highway construction. We would
certainly consider this a viable option,” Nelson told The Associated Press.
Jackson said he’s had difficulty coming up with research to
determine how much the measure would generate.
Another bill filed recently would divert some of the state
sales tax revenue generated from the sale or purchase of new vehicles, trailers
and semi-trailers to raise the $134 million a year that highway officials say
they need to pay for Huckabee’s proposed bond issue.
Nelson said that the bill by Rep. Johnnie Bolin, D-Crossett,
was the basis for the governor’s highway plan, which would
ask voters to approve a $134 million tax increase by referendum, maybe as early
as this summer.
If approved, it would break with the
state’s pay-as-you-go highway user fees, which financed road construction until
a $1 billion bond issue approved by voters in 1999.
Randy Ort, spokesman for the Arkansas
Highway and Transportation Department and the state Highway Commission, said
highway officials were analyzing the bill and its ramifications.
HB2838 is in the House Revenue and
Taxation Committee. Bolin’s bill – HB2887 – is awaiting consideration on the
House floor. It previously passed the House Public Transportation Committee.