Governor: Poll shows 69% support for highway tax

By Steve Brawner

Sixty-nine percent of likely Arkansas voters favor a half-cent sales tax for roads that will be on the November ballot, according to a poll released by Gov. Asa Hutchinson Sept. 23.

The poll of 800 likely voters by Gilmore Strategy Group found 69% in favor of Issue 1 and 18% opposed, with 13% undecided.

The governor released the poll during a noon speech before the Arkansas Good Roads Foundation. The poll had a margin of error of plus-minus 3.5%.

Poll respondents were read the title that will appear on the ballot and asked if they would be for or against the measure. Responses were:

– Definitely for: 44% – Probably for: 25% – Definitely against: 10% – Probably against: 8%

Hutchinson said the tax had 69% support among Republicans, 72% support among Democrats, and 68% support among independents.

The governor said the measure had strong support across the state’s media markets. The highest was Jonesboro, where it had 81% support.

If approved, Issue 1 will enact a constitutional amendment to make permanent the temporary half-cent sales tax funding the Connecting Arkansas Program. The 10-year tax was approved by voters in 2012 and is set to expire in 2023.

The tax would provide $205 million annually for state highways and $44 million each for cities and counties. The tax does not apply to groceries, can’t be used to pay for bonds, and can only be used for road improvements. Hutchinson said cities and counties would lose 30% of their funding for roads if the tax expires.

Arkansas Department of Transportation Director Lorie Tudor has said the tax will cost the average family $8 per month.

Lawmakers referred the proposal to voters during the 2019 legislative session as one of two parts of the governor’s highway package. The second part was approved by legislators and signed into law. It annually raised $95 million in system preservation funding and $13 million each for cities and counties through a 6-cent tax increase on diesel fuel, a 3-cent increase on gasoline, an increase in electric and hybrid vehicle registration fees, and casino revenues.

The two parts of the package potentially would provide $300 million annually for highways, 76% of which would be dedicated to system preservation and 24% for capital and congestion relief. The $300 million added to the current $440 million would give ARDOT $740 million in total construction funding.

Hutchinson said the highway taxes are part of a 2019 legislative session he called the “GOAT session,” or the “Greatest of All Time,” which also featured tax cuts, an increase in teacher pay and transformation of state government.

Hutchinson said he will fly around the state Oct. 19 at the beginning of the early voting period to promote the tax with stops in Jonesboro, Fort Smith, Northwest Arkansas, El Dorado and Little Rock.

Find the full article at Talk Business Politics.