Here’s a summary of the ballot initiative Sheffield Nelson filed with the attorney general’s office this morning. Assuming Nelson is able to accrue enough signatures, the initiative will go on the ballot in November.
-It would raise the tax to 7 percent of the market value of natural gas at the time of the extraction — on par with what Oklahoma and Texas charge. The current rate is 3/10 of a cent per 1,000 cubic feet. The new rate would be based on the market value of the gas rather than the quantity of production. Money raised would be placed under a special fund held by the state treasurer.
-The first 3/10 of a cent would be used for a general fund as it’s currently used under state law. The remainder of the 7 percent tax would be split between education and highway spending, but mostly for highways and roads. The breakdown would be 56 percent to the State Highway and Transportation Department, 12 percent to the county aid fund for roads, 12 percent to the municipal aid fund for roads and 20 percent to the state’s public colleges and universities.
-If passed, it will go into effect January 1, 2009.
Gov. Mike Beebe has favored waiting until the 2009 legislature and has said he favored spending the money on roads. Thursday, his spokesman Matt DeCample said, “Sheffield’s heart is in the right place, but we would want to see a severance tax increase fully dedicated to highways.” DeCample said the governor’s general philosophy remains inclined toward legislative, rather than initiative, solutions.
More details after the jump.