Posted on July 11, 2012
Originally published in the El Dorado News-Times on July 12, 2012.
By: David Showers
As needs outstrip available revenue, the more than 16,000 miles of the Arkansas Highway System risk falling into disrepair if another funding source can?t be tapped.
Enter Proposed Constitutional Amendment No. 1, which will be put to voters on November?s general election ballot. It will temporarily raise the state sales tax a half-cent, providing money to close a projected $19 billion discrepancy between highway needs and available revenue.
The champion of the proposal, Madison Murphy, chairman of the state highway commission, won the support Wednesday of the El Dorado Chamber of Commerce during its monthly meeting. Its board of directors adopted a resolution to support the amendment, joining the Move Arkansas Forward campaign to raise money and awareness for the proposed sales tax increase.
Murphy pointed to polling data that indicated voters could go either way on what he described as a “critical issue for highways in Arkansas.? He said he?s hoping to raise $1 million for the campaign.
According to the campaign, the sales tax increase would expire in 10 years, financing a $1.3 billion bond issue earmarked for four-lane highway construction and improvement. The tax increase will not be collected on groceries and medicines, and it?s expected to create 40,000 jobs through construction programs.
In South Arkansas, Murphy said the sales tax increase will be used to widen U.S. 425 to four lanes from Hamburg to the Louisiana state line and will complete the widening of U.S. 167 to four lanes between I-530 and El Dorado. It will also start the expansion of U.S. 82 to four lanes between El Dorado and Texarkana.
Turnback funds from the tax increase are an additional benefit, giving municipalities and counties $670 million to improve their roads. Union County would get $5,586,395 during the 10-year life of the tax increase, with El Dorado receiving $3,363,633.
More information is available at MoveArkansasForward.com
? The chamber entertained a fundraising presentation for Heritage Plaza, the proposed centerpiece on the campus of South Arkansas Community College. Adorned with a water feature, the plaza is billed as an aesthetically pleasing space for students and faculty to interact and relax. When the water feature is covered, the plaza can be converted into a stage for musical performances or other community events.
SouthArk alumna Lori Coke told the chamber the plaza would be a considerably more inviting space than the area where she and her classmates congregated.
“In between classes, we spent time in the dungeon,? Coke said. “It was in the basement of the administration building. It had snack machines, and we?d hang out there between classes.?
Greg Withrow, the college?s gift committee chairman, said the plaza would foster a more collegiate atmosphere at SouthArk.
“People want more than just a conglomeration of buildings. They want the college experience,? he said.
? A screening of the video featuring El Dorado High School that was shown in June at the National Society of Engineering Educators in San Antonio concluded the chamber meeting. The video, produced by the National Math and Science Initiative in partnership with Exxon Mobile, highlighted the school?s successful AP program.