Members of the Blue Ribbon Committee on Highway Funding met this week to put the finishing touches on their recommendations to raise money for highway construction and repair. The recommendations include a lot of proposed tax increases – including a one-half-cent general sales tax to fund a 10-year bond program; annually indexing existing gas and diesel taxes to the construction cost index, meaning they would go up as construction costs go; and a phased-in tax on the wholesale cost of motor fuels.
But there’s no appetite for raising taxes this year. The Beebe administration has submitted a tight budget and is trying to CUT taxes – specifically the grocery tax. A lot of the 44 Republicans elected in November had signed a “no new tax” pledge.
The committee did good work, and something will have to be done about Arkansas’ highways. The Highway Department has identified $19 billion in highway needs but only $4 billion in funding.
But don’t look for a lot of orange barrels any time soon.