Arkansas voters to decide on permanent sales tax toward roads

Published: Jan. 29, 2020 at 11:25 AM CST
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Voters will have a big decision to make in the November election about where their taxpayer dollars are going in the future.

"Everybody knows how bad the roads and bridges are. Not just state, but county too," said Boone County Judge Robert Hathaway.

Voting yes to Issue 1 would not add a new tax, just continue the half-cent sales tax that’s already been in place since 2013, and is set to expire on July 1, 2023.

"It'll generate about $200 million a year for highways, $44 million a year for cities, and $44 million a year for counties," said Scott Bennett, the Arkansas Department of Transportation director.

For city and county leaders, the choice is clear. If the tax doesn’t continue, towns will lose out on hundreds of thousands of dollars.

"The county stands to lose about $608,000 a year," Hathaway said.

"It would be a huge blow to our budget. It would really hinder their construction and overlay work we have going on in Mountain Home if we don't continue this tax," said Mountain Home Mayor Hillrey Adams.

The money would go toward improving and maintaining roads and highways, but also on new projects.

"Making some improvements to Highway 412 across the top of the state," Bennett said. "And some improvements to Highway 65 in Harrison. Even considering the possibility of building a bypass around Harrison."

But some think that funding may be better used elsewhere.

"I think we're taxed enough," said Delene McCoy, who lives in north Arkansas. "So I really kind of have mixed feelings about it. And I think the money should go toward education or something else."

But ARDOT said if Arkansans vote no to Issue 1, it may be a long road ahead.

"Everyone will have to go back to the drawing board if this doesn't pass," Bennett said.

There will be other meetings about the tax throughout the state over the next couple weeks. The next meetings are as follows at 5:30 p.m.:

Texarkana on January 30 at Trinity Baptist Church

MENA on February 11 at U of A Rich Mountain - Ouachita Center

Forth Smith on February 13 at The Blue Lion

Hot Springs on February 20 at Crossgate Church

Maumelle on March 9 at Jess Odom Community Center - Gymnasium

Springdale on March 10 at The Jones Center

Batesville on March 12 at UACCB - Independence Hall

Jonesboro on March 31 at ASU - 1st National Bank Arena - Auditorium

El Dorado on April 2 at El Dorado Municipal Auditorium