To Support Or Not Support the Highway Bond Proposal (Editorial)

Since last we addressed editorially the question of whether the highway bond proposal scheduled for a statewide vote on Dec. 13 is a good idea, a raft of aginners — led by the Arkansas Truckers Association — has floated up.

That a proposal to obligate tax dollars to any debt should draw opposition should not be surprising. Gov. Mike Huckabee, head cheerleader for this and a companion bond proposal for higher education infrastructure, was overly confident when he predicted there would be no organized opposition.

Could it be that the ATA, long dissatisfied with the state's appointed Highway Commission, set out to embarrass the governor? If so, it wouldn't be the first time that a lobbying group took advantage of a politician's weakness, and it won't be the last.

This bond proposal — which would, in effect, give the Highway Commission a credit card with a $575 million limit — is just novel enough to throw the structure of the political universe out of balance. The Arkansas Republican Assembly, which calls itself "the Republican wing of the Republican party," also opposes the bond issue — apparently unashamed to be in agreement with the anything-but-Republican editorialists of the Arkansas Times.

Bill Halter, a Democrat who is raising an awful lot of out-of-state money for a guy who can't quite figure out if he wants to run for governor of Arkansas, is also opposed, while state Sen. Jim Argue, also a Democrat, says he for it, as is the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce.

Here at Arkansas Business, we've seen nothing to change our original opinion: It's a close call, but we're still inclined to support the highway bond issue. Borrowing is never cheaper than paying as you go, and there is always some risk involved. Voters need to decide their tolerance for state debt and for turning over the credit card to an appointed rather than elected body — and for the difficulty in undoing this vote if it passes.

Just go into the booth and vote your comfort level.