House Hits Brakes on Push to Revive Gas Tax Proposals

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - A push to breathe new life into a highway funding plan didn't survive the Arkansas House of Representatives Monday. 

The legislation was six lawmakers shy of a revote. 

"It's over and done with," said State Rep. Dan Douglas, R- Bentonville, the bill's sponsor. "And I don't know what we're going to do to finance our maintenance of our highways."

One bill would have allowed the highway department to issue bonds to pay for construction projects. The other would have taxed gasoline and diesel at the state's rate of 6.5 percent to repay those bonds. That's roughly an extra ten cents per gallon.

Supporters estimated the measures would have generated hundreds of millions of dollars for roads. 

"I don't like to increase taxes but we in the house or we in the legislature with these bills, we will not be increasing taxes," said Rep. Douglas. "We are sending them to the voters to ask them if they want to impose a tax on themselves to make their highways better."

The governor supported sending the proposal to the polls, but some of Rep. Douglas's colleagues made sure it didn't get that far. 

"What we need to do is find something that will go up with inflation," said State Rep. Joe Farrer, R- Austin. "That will solve my problem."

Instead of taxing gas, Rep. Farrer brought up a proposal from several years ago that would have transferred the tax on car parts to highways. 

"With inflation, parts are going to go up so your tax money would go up also," he said. "Thought that was a better bill."

Rep. Douglas worries the state will never be able to grow because lawmakers will never green light a tax increase. 

"It doesn't do any good to expand if we can't maintain what we've got," he said. "There is nothing else on the table. This is the only game in town right now."

Some lawmakers expect a special session over highway funding.

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