Arkansas Highway Funding Bill Wants Part Of General Revenues, Educators Worried

Mar 13, 2013

A bill that would direct a portion of the state’s general revenue to pay for highways in the years to come has many in state education and higher education programs worried they’ll lose a portion of their funding in the future.

Rep. Jonathan Barnett (R-Siloam Springs) is the sponsor of HB1418.
Credit Arkansas State Legislature

  The bill’s sponsor, Representative Jonathan Barnett, a Republican from Siloam Springs, says some general revenue needs to shift to highways because revenue sources like the state’s fuel tax aren’t keeping the state’s highways adequately funded for upkeep.

“20 years, it’s flat, we don’t even have enough money to maintain the existing highway network system, and this bill will give us a little bit of future revenue growth on a limited basis that will help, at least, to maintain the existing highway network system,” Barnett said.

At a rally at the capitol put on by Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families for education and health groups to speak against the bill, Donna Morey, President of the Arkansas Education Association, told the crowd that the bill would hurt education in the state.

“Any time that general revenue is cut there’s going to be effects of the lives of so many families in Arkansas … We all want good roads, highways for our citizens to travel, but not on the backs of public school students,” Morey said.

Barnett says his bill only skims off of growth in general revenue and would create jobs for the state in the private sector.

A spokesman for Governor Mike Beebe says the Governor is against general revenue going to highways.