Favorite

Truckers and a new highway paradigm 


By itself, the trucking industry’s opposition to Gov. Mike Huckabee’s highway bond proposal never made sense. Clearly, the big truck lobby was up to something else.


No additional taxes were proposed on trucks or anybody. Bonds were to be paid back from a stream of federal revenue that was certain to flow, whether for debt service or pay-as-you-go.


Interstate highways provide the very lifeline of the trucking industry. Borrowing against future federal receipts would have provided the state Highway Commission a method to keep those vital freeways smooth and wide so that big rigs could cruise.


The trucking industry’s stated reason for opposition — that the proposal would have removed the people’s right to vote on highway spending — was nonsense. People don’t have the right now. Since 1953, the Highway Commission’s five members have had constitutional autonomy to spend highway money.


With the defeat of the bond proposal, the Highway Commission will spend federal aid as it receives it year to year — without input of the people.


So, what was the truckers’ deal?


A few years ago the Arkansas Trucking Association tried and failed to get the Legislature to refer a proposed constitutional amendment to elect highway commissioners. The stated reason was that highway money was not being spent wisely or accountably. Another reason might have been that the truckers could have used their political muscle to influence elections to a greater extent than they’ve been able to influence governors in the appointments of highway commissioners who became instantly insulated by constitutional independence.

 
On the day after the bonds failed by 60 percent to 40 percent, I asked Lane Kidd, president of the Trucking Association, if his group might have become so emboldened by the outcome that it would now resurrect the proposal to elect highway commissioners.
Kidd said that was a great question. Then he said that truckers’ only current agenda regarding Arkansas highway finance is to “change the paradigm.”


Oh, is that all?


Changing a paradigm means creating a new model. It means changing the system at its very core. It means skipping a tune-up and overhauling an engine.


Just how did the truckers wish to change the very paradigm of Arkansas highway funding?


Well, said Kidd, the process over the last few decades has been for the five highway commissioners to divvy up what’s available equally among themselves and the five geographical districts they represent. That, he said, had failed to address needs based on population growth and traffic counts. He pointed out that Northwest Arkansas had exploded economically in spite of a nonexistent transportation infrastructure and now finds itself crying for help while our highway commissioners keep slicing the pie into five equal and antiquated pieces.

 
He’s right that those five districts are out of date. They’re based on old congressional districts, since changed by population shifts to four.


“The people should rule,” Kidd said.


I suggested that if the truckers intend to redefine highway spending priorities and elevate public control, they must be preparing a constitutional amendment for voter consideration that would limit highway commissioners’ discretion by designating the order and criteria by which projects would be funded. Such an amendment would necessarily repeal the Mack-Blackwell Amendment of 1952, which grants the Highway Commission’s autonomy, and for which there’s long been broad, if not necessarily deep, public support.


If voters meant what they said Tuesday, then it would seem to follow that they’d want to repeal Mack-Blackwell.


“You’re jumping way out there on a constitutional amendment,” Kidd said. “We’re not that far yet. We don’t really know what that paradigm would be. What we need is for some smart people to sit around a table for three or four months and see what they come up with.”


If they come up with something that has dollars strictly following residents or vehicles, no amount of logic would prevent the kind of culture war pitting rural interests against metropolitan ones that we’ve seen in the public school debate. I’m not sure if even the big rigs are sufficiently fortified for that.

Favorite

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by John Brummett

  • Obstruction is the preferred conservatism

    Is there greater conservative virtue in opposing federal health reform, period, or in saying it ought to be implemented locally instead of from Washington in the event we are unavoidably laden with it?
    • Oct 5, 2011
  • A fate not quite as bad as prison for Lu Hardin

    There is no crime in being overly and transparently solicitous for the purposes of aggrandizement and personal political advancement. That's simply acute neediness, a common and benign human frailty.
    • Sep 28, 2011
  • Can we talk? Can we get anywhere?

    Dialogue is good. It would be even better if someone would venture off script every once in a while.
    • Sep 21, 2011
  • More »

More by Max Brantley

Most Shared

  • World leaders set to meet in Little Rock on resource access and sustainable development

    Next week a series of meetings on the use of technology to tackle global problems will be held in Little Rock by Club de Madrid — a coalition of more than 100 former democratic former presidents and prime ministers from around the world — and the P80 Group, a coalition of large public pension and sovereign wealth funds founded by Prince Charles to combat climate change. The conference will discuss deploying existing technologies to increase access to food, water, energy, clean environment, and medical care.
  • Tomb to table: a Christmas feast offered by the residents of Mount Holly and other folk

    Plus, recipes from the Times staff.
  • Rapert compares Bill Clinton to Orval Faubus

    Sen. Jason Rapert (R-Conway)  was on "Capitol View" on KARK, Channel 4, this morning, and among other things that will likely inspire you to yell at your computer screen, he said he expects someone in the legislature to file a bill to do ... something about changing the name of the Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport.
  • Fake news

    So fed up was young Edgar Welch of Salisbury, N.C., that Hillary Clinton was getting away with running a child-sex ring that he grabbed a couple of guns last Sunday, drove 360 miles to the Comet Ping Pong pizzeria in Washington, D.C., where Clinton was supposed to be holding the kids as sex slaves, and fired his AR-15 into the floor to clear the joint of pizza cravers and conduct his own investigation of the pedophilia syndicate of the former first lady, U.S. senator and secretary of state.
  • Reality TV prez

    There is almost nothing real about "reality TV." All but the dullest viewers understand that the dramatic twists and turns on shows like "The Bachelor" or "Celebrity Apprentice" are scripted in advance. More or less like professional wrestling, Donald Trump's previous claim to fame.

Latest in John Brummett

  • Gone to the DoG

    We're now longer carrying John Brummett's column in this space.
    • Oct 12, 2011
  • Obstruction is the preferred conservatism

    Is there greater conservative virtue in opposing federal health reform, period, or in saying it ought to be implemented locally instead of from Washington in the event we are unavoidably laden with it?
    • Oct 5, 2011
  • A fate not quite as bad as prison for Lu Hardin

    There is no crime in being overly and transparently solicitous for the purposes of aggrandizement and personal political advancement. That's simply acute neediness, a common and benign human frailty.
    • Sep 28, 2011
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

View Trumpeter Swans in Heber Springs

View Trumpeter Swans in Heber Springs

Magness Lake, in Heber Springs, is a magnet for swans

Event Calendar

« »

December

S M T W T F S
  1 2 3
4 5 6 7 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17
18 19 20 21 22 23 24
25 26 27 28 29 30 31

Most Viewed

  • Stay the course

    I am frustrated and angry with those who claim the only chance of future success is for the Democratic Party, especially in the South and Midwest, to abandon speaking directly to women and people of color and the LGBT community and instead focus on the economy and other "more comfortable" topics in order to win back some of the center.
  • Reality TV prez

    There is almost nothing real about "reality TV." All but the dullest viewers understand that the dramatic twists and turns on shows like "The Bachelor" or "Celebrity Apprentice" are scripted in advance. More or less like professional wrestling, Donald Trump's previous claim to fame.
  • Fake news

    So fed up was young Edgar Welch of Salisbury, N.C., that Hillary Clinton was getting away with running a child-sex ring that he grabbed a couple of guns last Sunday, drove 360 miles to the Comet Ping Pong pizzeria in Washington, D.C., where Clinton was supposed to be holding the kids as sex slaves, and fired his AR-15 into the floor to clear the joint of pizza cravers and conduct his own investigation of the pedophilia syndicate of the former first lady, U.S. senator and secretary of state.

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Reality TV prez

    • Oh, calm down, Mr. L. and Mr. G. Stop having hissy fits. Instead of behaving…

    • on December 8, 2016
  • Re: Arkansas Democrats' rocky road forward

    • As we saw with the raise in the minimum wage and medical marijuana, there are…

    • on December 8, 2016
  • Re: Arkansas Democrats' rocky road forward

    • Ozark,

      What are the Arkansans marching and rallying about? Is this an anti-Trump rally?

    • on December 8, 2016
 

© 2016 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation