26 September 2011
*****************************FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE***********************************
Refer all inquiries to Jeff Oland, Chairman of the Washington County Tea Party–(888) 311-4348
Washington County Tea Party Opposes November 8th Debt Question.
The Washington County Tea Party, one of the largest and most active Tea Parties in the state, has come out against the proposal to let the state Highway Commission borrow $575 million against anticipated future revenues. Voters will be asked to go to the polls on November the 8th and approve or deny the bond issue.
Jeff Oland, Chairman of the Washington County Tea Party, does not like the timing of the proposal, or its lack of details. “This is the wrong time to ask the working families of this state to take on more debt, especially since the Highway Commission won’t commit to a specific plan on how the money is to be spent. The voters have not been given a plan to look at,” he said.
Oland was not impressed by claims that the plan would not necessitate a tax increase. “It would necessitate a lot of taxpayer money that could be spent on road maintenance going to bond commission fees and interest payments,” he said. He also noted that the plan relies on the federal government coming through with expected road payments for the next fifteen years to avoid a tax increase. “That’s not nearly as sure a bet as it was in 1999 (when a similar plan was passed by voters).”
Oland calls for reforming the Highway Commission before voting them any more money. “Northwest Arkansas and Central Arkansas are grossly under represented the way that commission is set up. It’s based on the population distribution of Arkansas back in the 1930’s. Think about where northwest Arkansas was back then compared to the Delta. That’s all changed now, but the representation on the commission has not. Why would people from here or from central Arkansas vote for giving a system like that another $575 million of money borrowed on our credit?”
Proponents of the bond issue point out that voters passed a similar measure in 1999 by a wide margin. Oland uses the way the commission spent that money as proof that voters should not do it again. “We trusted them and let them borrow against fifteen years of revenue and they used it to build roads like crazy, leaving too little money for road maintenance in the latter years of the fifteen year cycle. They build lots of roads, but in the wrong places. They don’t reserve enough for maintenance. The money does not follow the cars. Giving a huge loan to a flawed system won’t solve our highway problems. We have to fix the system first,” Oland said.
The state’s interstate highway miles almost doubled in the ten year period following the previous bond issue. Only sixteen states have more road miles than Arkansas, even though the state ranks far below that in geographic size, population, and relative tax base.