ARKANSAS HIGHWAY BILL – Gov. Asa Hutchinson's plan to raise $300 million a year for Arkansas Highways was advanced Tuesday as the Arkansas House Revenue and Taxation Committee recommended the legislation. Senate Bill 336 is split into two parts. The first part, makes permanent an extension of the half-cent sales tax on fuel, this is predicted to raise $205 million annually for the Arkansas Department of Transportation and would require voter approval on the 2020 general election ballot.
The second part of the bill involves an increase on new tax indexes for diesel and gasoline, as well as additional registration fees for hybrid and electric vehicles. It also includes collecting tax revenues from casinos, restricted reserve funds and the use of other funding, to make up the remaining $95 million of the plan. This part of the plan just needs to be passed by the legislature.
A criticism of the bill is the part where electric car owners would have to pay annually an additional $200 to register their vehicle, and $100 annually for hybrid vehicles. Glen Hooks with Arkansas’ Sierra Club, told the committee that extra registration fees wipe out any fuel savings and would reduce the incentives for owning electric or hybrid cars.
"I think it’s worth noting that putting the electric vehicle fee at $200 a year will put Arkansas at the top of the list nationally, tied with two other states, when it comes to the highest fees in the entire country for electric vehicles," explained Hooks.
Hooks said other states waive or lower registration fees to owners of electric or hybrid vehicles to encourage their use. But the committee passed the bill and it now heads to the House Floor for a vote. If approved, it will head to the Governor’s desk for his signature.