Gov. Mike Beebe has said a new highway program is not a
major concern for him this year, the News
Bureau reported. Meanwhile, other officials in Arkansas pursuing more money
for transportation are preparing to revisit an effort to use bonds to foot the
bill for roadwork.
State Sen. Bobby Glover, D-Carlisle, said he was part of a
group preparing legislation similar to a failed 2005 proposal to renew a $575
million highway bond program voters initially approved in a 1999 referendum.
Glover and his group want to take the issue before voters in time for the 2008
election, the Northwest Arkansas Times
The proposal would include a provision to allow voters from
time to time to cancel the program if they decide they don't like the path it
Glover released aspects of the proposal after Dan Flowers,
director of the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department, gave a grim
forecast for road funding in the state.
Flowers recently indicated 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
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.
The forecast has led highway officials and lawmakers to
consider such measures as dedicating sales tax paid on road-user related items
to state highways, county roads and city streets.
The proposed new bond program would allow the state to
borrow money against the federal transportation dollars that come each year to
pay for construction. The sale is based on the assumption that federal funding
in future years would pay off the bonds. This allows the state to get money
needed up front.
In the end, what can be accomplished this year to pay for
roads in the state is unclear.