Highway Debt Frequently Asked Questions

1) The roads in my area of the state need to be repaired. I want my roads fixed, so isn’t this a legitimate means to do that?

This debt measure does not affect any state or local roads, so your local roads will not get fixed just because this bond passes. The bond money is supposed to be used only for maintaining existing interstates. .

2) I am a conservative, but I think maintaining roads is something the public should spend money for.

Please understand, we all want properly maintained roads. We agree that maintaining roads should be a priority as a legitimate use of taxpayer money. Since Arkansas is known as the highest taxed Southern state, why can they not find a way to maintain roads without going into debt? We need to address that issue before we agree to continue the vicious cycle of debt for routine road maintenance.

Put another way, if it is really true, as “Move Arkansas Forward” is claiming, that we must maintain or “modernize” our roads by going into debt to do so, then that proves our point that highway funds have been mismanaged, and the answer is not to keep repeating the same mistake.

By the way, Move Arkansas Forward is co-chaired by the same man who chairs the Arkansas Highway Commission (Madison Murphy of Murphy Oil–Wal-Mart gas pumps), and they are putting out conflicting information about what this bond money would do. They insist on one hand that this is only about maintaining what we already have, while also promising to “modernize” and add exits, ramps, and bridges. So which is true? How can we know? The Arkansas Highway Commission is not elected or accountable to us for how the funds will be spent.

Which brings us to the next point–how can anyone know what roads will need maintenance 15 years from now? No one can, so why not just use existing federal funds to pay as we go where it is needed most?

3) Since this does not raise taxes, why should we not agree to a bond measure if it will fix our roads?

First of all, a bond is still debt, and debt is a still a form of enslavement, as it has been throughout time.

“We must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt” – Thomas Jefferson

Secondly, the ballot language clearly states that if revenues from federal highway funds or fuel taxes do not come in, repayment will have to be made from the general fund. That means we taxpayers will be on the hook should those funds not come through. There is a potential then for a tax increase to cover it, or else spending will have to be cut somewhere else, and how likely is that?

4) Wouldn’t we save money in the long run if we go ahead and invest now while they are able to get this reduced interest rate?

Interest rates were not very high in 2000 either, yet we will have paid an estimated $264 MILLION* in interest to get that $575 million a few years early. You read that right. That figure does not include bond commission fees or legal fees. It does not make economic sense to keep letting our highway funds be eaten up in interest and fees. If we just spend the money as it comes in, we would have over half of it in just four years with no interest or fees! Bear in mind they took three years to get the full $575 million the first time, and no one can guarantee what interest rates will be 3 years from now.

*See this story from 2005.

5) Businesses, particularly tourism businesses, need good roads. If businesses lose revenue because of poor roads, it takes years to attract business back to the state.

Agreed, and again, this is only about interstates, and debt is not the solution. The fact is, the high taxes in this state are an even bigger deterrent to business, and there is potential for even higher taxes if we end up without enough revenue to pay back these bonds.