Arkansas voters reject highway bond issue

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About 60 percent of Arkansas voters defeated a proposed highway bond authorization that the Arkansas Trucking Association had opposed vigorously on the grounds that it would take away citizens’ right to vote on future highway bond issues.

In the weeks leading up to the Tuesday, Dec. 13 vote, a campaign committee formed by the Arkansas Trucking Association – Citizens Against No. 1 – had fought Ballot Question No. 1 aggressively through fliers, advertising on radio and television and news conferences.

In addition to withholding the right of citizens to vote on future bond issues, Ballot Question No. 1 would transfer the authority for approving government debt to an unelected highway commission, the Arkansas Trucking Association and Citizens Against No. 1 had argued. The commission would have had the power to borrow money and obligate taxpayers to repay bonds.

Based on estimates for the current interstate construction program, that debt could reach $1 billion, opponents said. They characterized the proposal as giving commissioners “a revolving credit card with more than a half-billion dollar credit line and permanent authority to borrow against taxes.”

The Arkansas Trucking Association argued that the state had ample highway dollars available – at least $6.5 billion in highway taxes over the next five years – without borrowing. In addition, the proceeds of bonds authorized by Ballot Question No. 1 would not have increased highway capacity because the language restricted funding to existing interstate highways.