Saturday, September 8, 2012

The highway sales tax projects: Worth a sales tax?

Posted By on Sat, Sep 8, 2012 at 5:57 AM

CRAIG DOUGLASS: No bridges to nowhere in highway plan.
  • CRAIG DOUGLASS: No 'bridges to nowhere' in highway plan.
Craig Douglass, who's knocking down $20,000 plus a month to promote a proposed sales tax primarily intended to pay for a four-lane construction program in Arkansas, objects to my critical remark yesterday about the value of four-lane construction as an economic development tool, particularly in rural areas.

He responds with the list of the projects, heavily weighted to populous counties (and, I should add, heavily weighted to further general taxpayer subsidy of encouraging inefficient, high fuel consumption of suburban development. When the freeway widening of a six-lane route to Cabot is completed, state taxpayers will then be asked to pay a few more pennies for their jeans and T-shirts to widen it to eight lanes). He did NOT respond with an itemization of how he's spent the $600,000 or so that has passed through his hands as campaign consultant, the biggest current abuser of the state ethics reporting law. In this scam, which I've protested to the Ethics Commission and which it vows to correct, consultants like Douglass are used as pass-throughs for spending that is never itemized. Just what has Douglass spent the money on? We don't know and won't know.

But for the record, the list follows of the four-lane projects that would be financed. There are no "bridges to nowhere" on this list, Douglass says. (The sales tax also would provide some money for cities and counties, though not nearly so much as the far preferable gas severance tax initiative that fell apart):

Central Arkansas
• Widening of US Hwy 70 to four lanes between I-30 and Hot Springs
• Continuation of widening US Hwy 270 to four lanes from Hot Springs westward
• Completion of widening US Hwy 64 to four lanes between Conway and Beebe
• Completion of widening I-40 to six lanes between Little Rock and Conway
• Completion of widening US Hwy 67 to six lanes from Jacksonville to Cabot
• Improvements to I-30 connecting Little Rock and North Little Rock, including widening the I-30 Arkansas River Bridge (120,000 cars a day)
• Continuation of widening I-630 in Little Rock from Baptist Hospital to University Ave.

Northwest Arkansas
• Widening I-540 to six lanes between Fayetteville and Bentonville
• Completion of the initial two lanes of the future four-lane Bella Vista bypass
• Beginning four-lane construction of the US Hwy 412 Springdale bypass from I-540 to the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport (XNA) connector

South Arkansas
• Completion of widening US Hwy 425 to four lanes from Hamburg to the Louisiana line
• Completion of widening US Hwy 167 to four lanes between I-530 and El Dorado
• Beginning the widening of US Hwy 82 to four lanes from El Dorado to Magnolia to Texarkana

Northeast Arkansas
• Completion of widening US Hwy 412 to four lanes between Paragould and Walnut Ridge
• Completion of widening State Hwy 18 to four lanes between Jonesboro and Blytheville (to I-55)

East Arkansas
• Continuation of widening US Hwy 64 to four lanes between Marion and Wynne

North/North Central Arkansas
• Continuation of widening US Hwy 65 to four lanes between Harrison and Clinton

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