Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson today joined leaders from many of the state’s leading organizations to kick off the state’s campaign to continue sales tax funding for highways, roads and bridges.
The campaign kicked off as “Vote for Roads, Vote for Issue 1,” and representatives from the Poultry Federation, The Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce, the Arkansas Association of Counties, the Arkansas Municipal League, the Arkansas Farm Bureau, AGC Arkansas and the Arkansas Trucking Association joined the governor for this exciting announcement. The Northwest Arkansas Council is supportive of the proposal.
“A vote for Issue 1 means better roads, a stronger economy, and a safer Arkansas — without raising taxes,” Hutchinson said, describing the half-cent sales tax proposal as the most important initiative on the November 2020 ballot. “It will benefit every resident and every small business that calls Arkansas home, and I am delighted to lead this effort.”
The campaign created a website to provide information about the importance of good highways in Arkansas. It offers information about job creation, highway benefits to the state’s economy and how highway funding improves the safety of travel.
The half-cent tax, which is set to expire in 2023, addressed more than the Arkansas Department of Transportation’s biggest projects. It boosted road and street funding for cities and counties because they divide 30 percent of the tax revenue.
Statewide passage of the original half-cent sales tax in 2012 was considered a huge win for the state and especially Northwest Arkansas.
Under the new proposal to continue that same half-cent sales tax, the measure would provide more than $205 million a year in funding to maintain, improve, and construct nearly 7,000 miles of interstate and highway miles and repair and replace dangerous bridges throughout the state—all without raising taxes.
If Issue 1 succeeds, cities and counties will continue to receive $43 million annually. The funding since 2012 has allowed cities and counties to boost funding to their road and street departments.
In Northwest Arkansas, the funding enabled the Arkansas Department of Transportation to pay for several of the region’s biggest highway projects. The 10-year sales tax supported the first section of the U.S. 412 Bypass of Springdale that’s improved travel to the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport, widened Interstate 49 from Bentonville to Fayetteville to six lanes, and it funded much of the Bella Vista Bypass that’s now under construction.
If voters approve the 2020 sales tax extension, it will pay for additional big-ticket projects statewide, and several of those will be in Northwest Arkansas. Those include paying for additional sections of the U.S. 412 Bypass of Springdale and a better highway toward the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport that will someday be extended even further north to provide an important connector for people who live in western Benton County.