Lawsuit claims improper use of sales-tax dollars for highway projects
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KATV) —
Taxpayer dollars are being used for certain highway road projects in violation of the Arkansas State Constitution, according to a lawsuit filed in Pulaski County Circuit Court.
On Nov. 6, 2012, Arkansans passed Amendment 91, which authorized the use of $1.3 billion to fund four-lane highway projects.
The money is set to be generated through a half-percent sales tax bump over ten years.
But here's where the perceived problem exists, according to plaintiff attorney Justin Zachary: "We see these funds not going to the construction and improvement of four-lane highways. They're going to six-lane highways and sometimes even more," Zachary said.
Amendment 91 defines explicit use of funds for four-lane projects, with monies being spent under the Connecting Arkansas Program.
Zachary noted the violation undermines the use of taxpayer dollars.
"It's massive amounts of money are being spent. We're talking hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayer funds that are being for something that was not authorized by Arkansans when they voted for it," Zachary said.
The suit claims the state highway departments plans to use $448 million of bond funds to widen a seven-mile stretch of Interstate 30 from six to eight or even ten lanes. That equates to 64 percent of the total project cost.
"This lawsuit's not just about the I-30 expansion, it's about the continued use of these funds before the I-30 project and maybe even one after the I-30 project when it's completed," Zachary said.
Zachary acknowledges highway road improvements are necessary but he stressed
"The highway department is more than welcome to go get funds from another source just not this source."
Click here to view lawsuit.