Surprise! Road builders talk up a highway tax increase | Arkansas Blog

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Surprise! Road builders talk up a highway tax increase

Posted By on Wed, Jan 4, 2017 at 4:49 PM

click to enlarge SEEKING MORE TAXES: Craig Douglass of the Good Roads Foundation talks of ways to produce more money for highways. A wholesale tax increase and extension of a temporary sales tax were mentioned. - ARKANSAS BUSINESS
  • Arkansas Business
  • SEEKING MORE TAXES: Craig Douglass of the Good Roads Foundation talks of ways to produce more money for highways. A wholesale tax increase and extension of a temporary sales tax were mentioned.

Sarah Campbell of Arkansas Business reports on a pitch by the road construction lobby to the state Highway Commission today on ways to raise more money for road construction.

They said their research showed voters don't want to build new roads, but would approve a new tax on wholesalers of fuel and would support making permanent the temporary half-cent sales tax approved in 2012. That's more taxes anyway you slice it. I think it would be a hard lift to get the legislature to even refer such things to voters. They certainly wouldn't approve them on their own hook.

A bit of dissonance in the presentation: The lobbyists said voters would not approve an increase in the per-gallon fuel tax. Poll respondents apparently didn't stop to think those wholesalers, saddled with a new tax, might pass it along to customers at the pump.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson and legislative leaders didn't evince much enthusiasm about new highway money during a session with reporters today on the legislative session. No wonder. Obamacare riches are up in the air; state tax revenues are flat; Republican red-hots want a bigger income tax cut for rich people; schools and colleges and other vital services are being given next to nothing to meet cost increases. And the highway lobby wants new bucks?

Noted: The Good Roads Foundation and Gilmore Strategies presented the ideas on more money for highways. Jon Gilmore, who leads the governor's campaign fund-raising effort and is a former gubernatorial staff member, heads Gilmore Strategies. Good guy to hire if you want an in with the governor, I guess.

UPDATE: An Arkansas Democrat-Gazette story notes that the governor provided some of the money for the joint effort by Good Roads and Gilmore Strategies to work on a highway plan. That is, state money went to an effort that employed Hutchinson's former staffer and current campaign finance leader.

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