Highway tax passage paves way for more 4-lane highways

LITTLE ROCK - When Arkansans approved a highway tax on Election Night, they agreed to provide the funding for 17 new highway projects aimed at improving 4-lane access.

The half-cent sales tax increase, known as Issue 1, passed with 58% percent of the vote. The Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department estimates the average household will spend an extra seven dollars a month as a result of the temporary tax plan.

"Tax increases obviously are not popular," said Randy Ort with AHTD. "However, there were direct benefits associated with this."

The AHTD says it will create a $1.3 billion fund over 10 years to pay for 4-lane highways in Hot Springs, Conway, El Dorado, and more locations across the state.

The state will start collecting the revenue in July 2013. Groceries, medicine, and gasoline are not affected.

"It's something that this state does not possess and sorely needs," said Ort, "and that is a system or an interconnected network of multi-lane highways that connect all parts of the state."

Republicans cruised to control the state legislature Tuesday, with many of the candidates running on an anti-tax platform.

Nevertheless, voters approved Issue 1 and okayed a new state sales tax hike.

Governor Beebe on Wednesday said Arkansans are known for not making everything political.

"They'll do what they believe is best for their own community and their children their own people if they know a lot about the issue," said Beebe. "Now if they don't they usually default to the no tax."