Gov. Asa Hutchinson says he will announce at 1:30 p.m. today his preferred plan for providing more money to spend on Arkansas highways.
He has said he wants a “revenue neutral” plan, meaning any increase in spending for highways must be paid by reductions elsewhere or other unspecified sources.
He has also indicated he preferred dealing with highways and the extension of Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion (which he supports) in a special legislative session. The legislative session this year is limited to budgeting.
UPDATE: Word is trickling out about the likely shape of the governor’s ideas. It includes transferring a portion of the highway diesel tax that now goes to general revenue to highways; a transfer of car sales tax revenue from general to highway revenues, and a transfer of a portion of state surplus, the General Improvement Fund (likely 25 percent), to highways.
Will Hutchinson say revenues, so far not exactly robust, will grow enough to keep other general revenue agencies from enduring more cuts from existing revenue sources? Another discussion worth having today is the growing toll from tapping one-time revenue sources to plug budget gaps. That comes home someday if revenues don’t grow sufficiently and, given recent tax cuts, that’s not a certainty.
UPDATE II: The press conference had a delayed beginning, but a fact sheet distributed beforehand shows:
$750 million diverted to highways over 10 years, but no new taxes. This will bring $2 billion in federal matching money.
For the first year of spending, transfer of $40 million in surplus — $20 million from unallocated surplus and $20 million from the rainy day fund.
Diverting an increasing amount, up to $25 million over five years, from general revenue to highway spending. (The governor says “efficiency” and “budget savings” will pay for this. That’s a lot of efficiency over 10 years.)
A transfer of $4 million in diesel revenue to general revenue.
More than $5 million that now goes to central services from a road sales tax will go to highways.
25 percent of unallocated GIF money each year to highways after other needs met. (This seems to suggest that the governor will still leave some GIF pork barrel money free for legislators to spend — if a new lawsuit being contemplated doesn’t bring an end to the questionable local purposes for which it has been spent.)
Hutchinson said tapping general revenue was the right thing to do. He said he was committed to not reducing other services, such as education. He said he had “full confidence” that the use of general revenue would be offset by “efficiencies” and “other offsets.” I don’t see how that can translate into anything but cuts.