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OPINION | ASA HUTCHINSON: Vote for roads

Issue 1 will keep Arkansans safe by ASA HUTCHINSON SPECIAL TO THE DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE | October 15, 2020 at 4:06 a.m.

For the last six years, I have had the privilege of traveling to every corner of our state as your governor. Even before I was elected, I have long crisscrossed the state as a congressman and candidate for office, but, more importantly, as a husband, father, and grandfather.

Being from the furthest northwestern corner of the state, I cannot even begin to count how many miles I have traveled across our unique state to BBQ campaign events, civic group meetings, and basketball games.

I've seen firsthand the damage caused by dangerous potholes, and sat in traffic on our interstates during rush hour.

On my first day in office as governor, I was presented the challenge of trying to find a long-term solution to fund our roads. A task force was created to study, discuss, and present solutions to pay for our roads. The General Assembly searched for a solution as well, and looked at exactly what amount was needed to maintain our roads. Now we know what is needed, and the question is whether everyone would unite behind a plan.

When I campaigned for a second term as your governor, I made sustainable and long-term road funding a priority. That's what leads us to Issue 1.

Issue 1 will appear on your November ballot because the Legislature referred out the proposal, after vetting other proposals for several years. We decided this was the most common-sense approach and wanted you--the voter--to have the final say on the future of your state.

Issue 1 provides a long-term funding stream for our state to maintain vital roads and bridges and also plan for the growth of the future. It dedicates one half-penny of future sales tax revenue to roads. Importantly, your taxes will not go up if Issue 1 passes. You are paying this same half-penny today.

The average Arkansan's salary is $55,000. At that salary, you are paying roughly $8 per month toward roads today due to the half-percent sales and use tax for roads. Issue 1 will simply maintain that monthly investment if it is passed.

I have heard a few voters ask the question as to why Issue 1 is a constitutional amendment. Why does it need to be in the Constitution? The answer is that the original bond issue that used the half-cent sales tax was put into the Constitution and so an amendment is necessary to continue it.

This approach is tested and not new. There are four other dedicated revenue sources in the state Constitution, including funding for our local schools and the conservation tax that helps fund Game and Fish and Parks and Tourism. It's worked well for others, and it will work well for roads.

Issue 1 will also help make Arkansas a more attractive place to live and work. As a state, we have consistently reduced the taxes on income, groceries, and other important essentials.

Those things, in conjunction with Issue 1, will encourage new businesses to locate here because they know we're serious about taking care of our most basic needs while still making sure you have money in your pocket to spend.

Issue 1 helps your local government. A portion of this funding will go to your city and county, so they can repair the two-lane roads you drive on every day. This is important because this is the level of government that is closest to you, the voter. You'll be able to see where the money goes, and you'll have a voice to make sure it's going to the right places.

Issue 1 is good for our businesses, our safety, and our future. But most of all, it's good for you. By voting for Issue 1, you can help fix those damaging potholes and keep our supply lines running, all without raising taxes and making sure the money goes where it's supposed to go.

Potholes make our life harder and cause costly damage to our cars, and waiting in traffic means lost time and fuel by sitting still. But good roads help keep food, supplies and medicine on the shelf at our local grocery stores. They also keep our children safe on school buses, and our loved ones with access to first responders in emergencies.

That's why I'm voting for Issue 1 this November. I ask you to do the same.

Vote for roads. Vote for Issue 1.

--–––––v–––––--

Asa Hutchinson is governor of the state of Arkansas.

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