SEN. TERRY RICE: Pushes highway bill.

The Arkansas Senate today a major part of Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s $300 million highway tax bill.

Sen. Terry Rice, carrying the bill, said it was reasonable, prudent and long-term. “We’ve kicked the can down the road as far as we can,” he closed in urging support for the bill.

Today’s bill included a new wholesale tax on fuel — equivalent to 3 cents a gallon on gas and 6 cents on diesel — to raise more than $80 million, about two-thirds for the state and the res for cities and counties. It also guarantees $35 million from casino tax revenue, by transferring money that once went to general services. The tax doesn’t produce enough now and the governor has said he’d use reserves from general revenue to pay the $35 million. The bill also includes a $200 annual registration fee on electric cars and $100 on hybrid vehicles. It would raise about $2 million.

Rice said electric and hybrid vehicles had been “subsidized.” He said they contributed to wear and tear on the roads, too.

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In all, the state would more than $95 million from today’s bill.

Sen. Kim Hammer raised questions about Department of Transportation management and mentioned talk of potential legislation to exert more oversight. Rice said the agency was independent constitutionally.

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Sen. Larry Teague said he’d vote for the bill “because we need better roads” but he said he was concerned that rural areas might not get the help they need.

A $200 million half-cent sales tax will require a vote and is enabled by separate legislation.