REJECTED: Benton County voters rejected a sales tax to pay for this proposed new courthouse.

Voters in Fort Smith and Benton County rejected sales tax increases in special elections Tuesday.

In Fort Smith, 65 percent of voters rejected a nine-month, one-cent sales tax to help pay for the U.S. Marshals Museum under construction there. It’s a $50 million project and private fund-raising hasn’t gone as well as hoped. It was pitched as an economic boon to the city, but residents, in addition to general anti-tax sentiment, were encouraged into the negative column by recent controversies over city water and sewer bills.

In Benton County, 62 percent of voters rejected a one-eighth-cent tax to pay for a new courthouse in downtown Bentonville. Simple resistance to a tax increase seemed to be a key theme of opposition, though the 40/29 article linked here quotes one opponent as objecting the scope and design of the project.

Do these elections hold any meaning for the coming vote on Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s push for a half-cent state sales tax dedicated permanently to highway construction alone, not general state services? Does it matter that he and the legislature just increased motor fuel taxes by 3 cents a gallon (6 cents on diesel)? Does it matter than a few thousand millionaires got a greater income tax cut combined than hundreds of thousands of poorer taxpaying Arkansans? Does it matter that the legislature wants to take away a voter-approved increase in the minimum wage?

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