The Arkansas Highway Department issued a statement today thanking the legislature and governor for providing money to qualify for federal matching in the next year, but the statement suggests some long-term money fixes are still in order.
In the next year, Gov. Asa Hutchinson won approval to divert $50 million in general revenue — a historic switch — to highways to qualify for $200 million in matching. His plans envisions sending $76 million a year in general revenue to highways in the next three years.
The recently completed Third Extraordinary Session of the 90th Arkansas General Assembly successfully provided additional immediate funding for our State’s highways. This new state funding will allow Arkansas to fully utilize additional federal highway funds coming to the State as a result of Congress’ passage of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act in late 2015.
Though these dollars are commonly referred to as “Highway Department funds,” the real benefactors are the citizens of our State. Arkansas was at risk of forfeiting federal highway dollars, with much of that money being collected in Arkansas from Arkansas citizens. Those funds can now be used for their intended purpose – making much needed improvements to our state’s highways.
The Arkansas Highway Commission and staff of the Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department appreciate the work of Governor Hutchinson and the members of the General Assembly in addressing this immediate need. We look forward to continuing to work with the Governor and legislators in developing and implementing the adequate, sustainable, long-term highway funding mechanism that our State needs and our citizens deserve.
I think “sustainable” is a gentle hint that a four-year highway financing plan built on artificially creating a surplus to dedicate to highways by reducing support for other agencies is not a long-term good idea.