How to maintain Arkansas highways is a major issue this legislative session. Where to get the funding is a big question discussed with Texarkana business leaders this week.
On Wednesday, Governor Asa Hutchinson called a highway plan a priority. “I think it’s very close to being in a position we can reveal the details of that,” he told NBC 6 News.
Arkansas has the twelfth largest highway system in the country. Along with its revenue stream, its performance is declining. Lawmakers are now tasked with finding more money for maintenance and construction. Third District Representative Danny Watson said, “We’re looking at a lot of different avenues. Gas tax is someting that has been talked about, even once upon a time, tolls have been talked about.”
But, officials tell Texarkana business leaders at the capitol on Wednesday, everything is on the table. There’s talk of cuts elsewhere so that money can be transferred to roads. There’s even discussion of making permanent a half-cent sales tax that is set to expire in 2023. Watson said. “Many people are so tired of taxes, so that’s where we come into play. It’s a lot easier said than done.”
Officials also maintained that the completion of Interstate 49 remains a priority. Hutchinson said, “Obviously in Texarkana, the importance of I-49, the advocacy for that, is critical to the growth in western Arkansas.” But highway officials said it will take three billion dollars to complete the stretch in Arkansas. Lawmakers called it a tough balancing act, one they’re trying to make some progress on in the weeks to come.