Road groups in Arkansas are expected to press state
lawmakers in the session that opened Monday, Jan. 8, to use general revenues
and a sizeable chunk of an estimated $843 million budget surplus to pay for
Dan Flowers, director of the Arkansas Highway and
Transportation Department, recently told a road group the state has about $19
billion in highway needs during the next decade. He said the state has $4
billion in anticipated revenue, the Arkansas
News Bureau reported.
Flowers, along with Highway Commission Chairman Jonathan
Barnett, said the per-gallon tax on diesel, gas and other fuels is flat. They
said there isn't enough money being generated through the tax to meet the
department's maintenance needs.
To combat the problem, Barnett has signed off on a measure
that asks state lawmakers to dedicate sales tax paid on road user-related items
to state highways, county roads and city streets, the News Bureau reported.
Barnett said that lawmakers should approve legislation
similar to an effort that failed during the previous session.
Sponsored by then-Rep. Johnnie Bolin, D-Crossett, now
executive director for the Arkansas Good Roads Transportation Council, the bill
called for diverting some of the sales tax revenue from the sale or purchase of
new vehicles, trailers and semi trailers, and other transportation related
items to pay for a $1 billion highway construction bond issue.
The sales tax diversion effort failed in 2005 after
lawmakers balked at using general revenue to pay for roads.
What can be accomplished this year to pay for roads is
unclear. Gov.-elect Mike Beebe, a Democrat, has said a new highway program is
not a major concern for him this year, the News