JUST SAY NO: To highway tax increase.

As noted yesterday, signs are already going up in downtown neighborhoods against Issue One, which would impose a new permanent half-cent state sales tax increase devoted to highway construction. It goes before state voters Nov. 3 in a proposed constitutional amendment.

The Downtown Little Rock Neighborhood Association and the Central Arkansas Sierra Club are joining the Arkansas affiliate of Americans for Prosperity, the Koch-founded political group, in opposing the increase, said a spokesman for the opposition group.

The AFP has already cited the state’s existing punishing sales tax rate, which falls heaviest on poor families, and the fact that truckers — who benefit most from the constant rebuilding of interstates — don’t pay a fair share of the cost of their damage to roads. The Downtown Neighborhood Association is a plaintiff in the lawsuit challenging the environmental assessment of the Interstate 30 widening project, with concerns about further neighborhood deterioration already caused by I-30 and I-630. This tax, which will produce about $300 million a year, will be used to cover a $350 million shortfall in funds for a project expected to cost at least $1 billion. The Sierra Club objects to the Arkansas Department of Transportation’s focus on freeway construction, rather than other modes of transportation.

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The highway construction lobby likes to say this isn’t a tax increase, merely an “extension” of a “temporary” 10-year tax. Without Issue One, your taxes will go down. It sounds a lot like a tax increase to me.

The No Permanent Tax. No on Issue 1 ballot committee hasn’t yet filed a report on financial contributions. The committee backed by truckers, contractors and the state chamber of commerce has amassed $1.6 million for its ad blitz.

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