Governor Beebe urging voters to renew highway bond program

    9:35 PM, Oct 25, 2011   |    comments
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    LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) --  Governor Mike Beebe is urging voters to support renewing a highway bond program in a November 8 special election.

    The proposal will allow an existing four cent a gallon diesel tax approved in 1999 to fund the repairs of Arkansas highways. The governor's office says they are seeing widespread support from both sides of the isle to renew this bond program.

    "Most people driving through Arkansas can tell the parts of the interstates that have seen the work the past decade and those that still need the work," says spokesperson, Matt DeCample.

    In 1999, Arkansans voted yes to issuing $575 million in highway bonds to repair the state's road system.

    "They've done just that and vastly improved our highway system and our infrastructure within Arkansas," says DeCample.

    Governor Beebe says the work isn't over. That is why DeCample says the Governor is holding a special election November 8.

    "What this vote would do would be to renew those bonds, not raise any taxes. It just renews those existing bonds to let us complete the work and finish rehabilitating the interstate system in Arkansas," says DeCample.

    But some say it isn't necessary.

    Secure Arkansas, a grassroots organization opposed to the highway bonds issued this statement:

    "While we do agree the interstates need repair, we are not convinced that the need for this debt is as dire as they make out. We are quite accustomed to public officials on all levels claiming that it will be an absolute disaster if they don't get more money right now. "

    "We've always got far more highway needs than we do money," says DeCample who notes with nearly $20 billion in highway needs over the next decade, there is no time like the present.

    "To those people that don't want a bond program, our question is always then how would you pay to improve and repair our highways? That money has to come from somewhere and this is one way we can do it without raising taxes," says DeCample.

    Secure Arkansas says they are planning to propose legislation that would keep Governor Beebe from calling special elections like these. They say this vote should be held during general election only when all registered voters are aware of what is going on.

    Even if the proposal doesn't pass, the Governor's office says the four-cent diesel tax will not go away. The money will go to other smaller highway projects. They say the highway bonds allow them to get more federal funding and the "biggest bang for their buck" when it comes to repairing Arkansas' interstates.

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