Arkansas Trucking Association

You are here: Home Article Archive Highway Dollars and Sense: Vote for Roads. Vote for Issue 1.

Highway Dollars and Sense: Vote for Roads. Vote for Issue 1.

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Vote for Roads. Vote for Issue 1.

Ed. note: In November 2020, Arkansas voters will have the power to decide if the state should keep collecting a half-cent sales tax in order to raise over $205 million annually for state highways and bridges, plus an additional $43 million each for counties and cities. In each issue leading up to the election, we have covered the potential impact of that decision. In this month’s issue, we tackle the economics. We encourage you to educate yourself before you vote and to help educate your friends, family, neighbors and coworkers who will help Arkansas make critical choices about our state’s infrastructure. Read Part 1 of this special series "Highway Dollars and Sense" on the political history of the half-cent sales tax for infrastructure Part 2 on the necessity of roads to our everyday lives, Part 3 on how highway funding creates a safer state for everyone, and Part 4 on the economic repercussions of making the temporary tax permanent.

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Every time that we arrive at this moment—days before the election—we’re always ready for it. Maybe every election cycle, we get more anxious for the attack ads and op-eds to end, for holiday cards to replace candidate fliers in our mailboxes, for the conversation to be about anything else.

The Governor and advocates for Issue 1 have taken every opportunity to tell voters about what a YES vote would mean for drivers on Arkansas roads. There have been challenges of campaigning across the state when the pandemic thwarted original plans, and opponents have also spent time trying to persuade voters.

If you are still on the fence, we hope you’ll consider reading our entire series “Highway Dollars and Sense,” but to sum up, Arkansas Trucking Association has been working toward a reliable infrastructure package for over a decade. Right now, we have a chance to seize the moment and make it happen as voters. Funding roads by continuing to collect a half-cent sales tax will allow people in all corners of the state to have access to an essential resource, maintain and improve safety, and support the economy and prosperity of communities.

Voters get to make it happen

Issue 1 has had late opposition organize in the weeks leading up to the election. One consistent argument is that a tax should not be written into our state Constitution. It’s not a controversial stance to want to revere and preserve our most fundamental state text. In fact, just down the ballot, Issue 3 proposes to make it more difficult for lawmakers and petitioners to change the Constitution.

The infrastructure funding shortfall is not a new problem, for which the first possible solution was to amend the Constitution as an easy fix. The estimated $478 million gap has been growing for decades. Before last year, the dedicated funding source, fuel taxes, had not been increased since 1999 despite inflation in the cost to build and maintain roads. Governor Hutchinson proposed a multi-approach plan: increase gas and diesel taxes and index to inflation, collect taxes from newly approved casinos, and collect registration fees on hybrid and electric vehicles.

The final piece of the plan identified a temporary half-cent sales tax that voters approved in the November 2012 election. If Arkansans agree to not let this tax expire in 2023, we make a commitment that we will always value and fund the infrastructure that connects us. It is a long-term, sustainable solution for a long-term resource like highways and bridges, pledged in a long-term document.

In 2019, legislators worked together and overwhelmingly passed the other pieces of the Governor's plan, but they left the choice of continuing the sales tax to their constituents because it was voters who chose to implement the original sales tax eight years ago.

It is a perfectly reasonable stance to want elected officials to take care of our public infrastructure instead of turning the decision over to voters. It is also reasonable to point out that while we wait another 20 years for Congress to make it a priority, we will individually be shouldering the cost to repair our vehicles after hitting potholes, waiting in traffic, and paying increased shipping rates for the freight that is hauled on crumbling roads.

It’s on the ballot now, and we have the chance to decide if we can be patient waiting for a perfect solution or if we can be practical solving our problems now with the tools on the table.

Protecting an essential resource.

Fortunately, almost everyone agrees that highways and bridges are essential to our way of life. Opponents of Issue 1 might tell you that trucking is driving this priority, but we are all stakeholders in the roads throughout our state and communities.

For the trucking industry, the highways are the office, it’s true. But roads carry school buses to take kids to classrooms or sports events around the state, roads allow farmers to get their crops to market, roads connect families with one another, and on and on.

Over 86 percent of communities depend on a trucks and surface transportation for all the food, medicine and goods they consume. Roads are as essential as pipes to bring water and wire to bring electricity. We all deserve access to well-funded, future-proofed, safe, smooth routes.

Safety in numbers

We have spent the better part of a year trying to be safe and protect ourselves from sickness and injury. For six months, Gov. Hutchinson held a daily press conference to share numbers as evidence of the public’s progress or elevated risk. If we look to the data on the number of bridges and roads that are in poor condition today, the state has room for improvement and an opportunity to be much safer.

If funding expires in 2023, how do we improve the 626 bridges with one of the key elements in poor or worse condition? Arkansas already ranks 25th in the number of structurally deficient bridges according to the American Road & Transportation Builders Association. Some of our worst bridges were built more than 60 years ago and bear more than 100,000 crossings every day. Repairing the 2,598 bridges in need carries a $1.7 billion price tag.

In the 2017 Infrastructure Report Card, the American Society of Civil Engineers graded the nation’s bridges a C+ and the roads, a D. Seventeen percent of Arkansas’s 102,603 miles of public roads were found to be poor condition.

Vote for roads. Vote for jobs. Vote for recovery.

It is expensive to clear sightlines, add a lane, change the grade of a hill, and make the improvements that keep drivers safe. But a vote for Issue 1 can address economic recovery that the state needs. Continuing the half-cent sales tax is expected to support 3,600 jobs each year and provide $8.2 billion of economic activity over ten years.

Without it, funding is expected to fall 30 percent. Cities and counties could lose over $40 million a year.

From 30,000 ft., voting for roads is about safety, economic progress, necessity, and urgency, but from your driveway, it may be about less time in traffic and more time with family or a wider shoulder around a dangerous mountain route. Wherever you’re going, vote for the road that will take you there.

At Arkansas Trucking Association, we encourage you to make sure you are registered to vote, know your polling place, and learn about the issues.

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Part 1: Why the Choice is Yours

Part 2: Mythbusting and Life Saving on the Essentiality of Open Roads

Part 3: A Safer Way Home

Part 4: Power of the Purse after a Pandemic

Contact Us

Arkansas Trucking Association
PO Box 3476 (72203)
1401 West Capitol Ave.
Little Rock, AR 72201

(501) 372-3462 | Phone
(501) 376-1810 | Fax

Our Mission

  • PROTECT the collective interests of trucking companies in the political and regulatory arenas.
  • PROMOTE the dynamics of trucking so that people have a better understanding of the link between America's primary freight delivery system and the standard of living they enjoy.
  • SERVE our members to help them to grow their business and their profits
You are here: Home Article Archive Highway Dollars and Sense: Vote for Roads. Vote for Issue 1.