Arkansas governor makes road tax main priority for 2020

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In this April 10, 2019 file photo, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson speaks to reporters in his office at the state Capitol in Little Rock, Ark. (AP Photo/Andrew DeMillo)

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark.  — Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s priorities for the 2020 election season will focus on winning voter approval for a proposed constitutional amendment that would make Arkansas’ 0.5% sales tax for highways and roads permanent.

At Tuesday’s meeting of the Arkansas Good Roads Foundation, Hutchinson said the proposal is vital to the state’s future. Arkansas officials project the measure would raise about $205 million a year for highways.

Voters approved the tax in 2012 but it is set to expire after 10 years, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.

A Gilmore Strategy Group poll in October found 62% of 800 likely voters said they’re going to vote for Issue 1 or are likely to vote in favor of it, according to Hutchinson. The poll also showed 68.6% of people are more likely to vote for the amendment “if they are assured that it was going to be spent and invested in all four corners of the state.”

About 33% of the respondents indicated their major concern about the quality of roads is potholes damaging vehicles, while 18% are more concerned with congestion and delays, Hutchinson said.

A committee dubbed “Vote for Roads. Vote for Issue 1” will promote the proposed amendment ahead of next year’s election.

Hutchinson said he’s delighted that highway commissioners and the Transportation Department will be hosting 12 public hearings across the state. The meetings will begin in Monticello on Jan. 21 and end April 2 in El Dorado, according to the agency.

Hutchinson said the meetings are critical because the public wants to know how the money will be used.

“They want to make sure that the divvying up and the allocation of those funds was not done simply behind a closed door, but that they had input into it, that they were able to express their views on it, they were able to see it on a map and to comment on it and help develop it and shape it,” the governor said.

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