The chance to renew the state’s half-cent sales tax to pay for highway upkeep will be the most important issue on the ballot next year, and today I’d like to talk about why I supported the legislation that will allow us to vote on Issue One.
Issue One does not increase taxes. The state has been collecting a half-cent sales tax for highway maintenance since 2013 after the voters approved it in 2012. The current half-cent sales tax is set to expire in 2023. Issue One allows us to extend it to pay for roads.
Roads and bridges are in constant need of maintenance, and upkeep is not cheap. Issue One will bring in more than $205 million annually to repair and improve nearly 7,000 miles of highways and to repair or replace dangerous bridges. It will bring in $43 million to go to cities and $43 million to go to counties. The rest of the $119 million will be used for state infrastructure.
Our roads, streets, and highways are crucial to so many areas of life. Our roads connect the four corners of Arkansas and allow us the freedom to travel almost anywhere we want to go.
We take the roads to our jobs, to the doctor, to school, and to the grocery store. Our roads take us to visit family and friends.
Agriculture is our Number One industry, and our farmers rely on safe roads to deliver their goods. Tourism is our second-largest industry. Our highways give Arkansans and visitors easy access to our mountains and our rivers and to the duck-hunting waters of the Delta.
When the leaders of a company are considering a move to Arkansas, the condition of our transportation system is one of their top criteria.
Over the years, this will cost billions of dollars. Issue One allows us to provide the funds for highway maintenance far into the future. Approval of this extension will mean that the money to fix our potholes and resurface our roads will be there when we need it. Renewal ensures stability for road funding. It also will give us a stronger hand when we apply for federal funds.
We all benefit from good roads. The half-cent sales tax allows everyone to easily share in the maintenance of our transportation infrastructure.
Issue One is the second part of a historic plan to pay for roads and highways. Earlier this year, members of the 92nd General Assembly approved $95 million for highway upkeep. Legislators, with my support, then approved this initiative for the 2020 ballot.
I joined legislators in wanting to give all Arkansans the chance to approve this extension. Passage of Issue One will mean safer roads around the state, and safe roads improve life for everyone.