Friday, January 25, 2008

Highway Robbery

We knew it was coming. Last night, the Northwest Arkansas Council of Corporations and Wealthy Business Executives moved their first pawn in the game to get "authority" to exercise eminent domain and to raise your taxes for their latest project to increase their income at public expense. Judge Gary Black and the Benton County Quorum Court rolled over for their masters with hardly a fight and voted to join the Regional "Mobility" Authority. The vote was 9-2.

Green thinking and pump prices have convinced the public to reduce gasoline consumption and pay less in gas taxes, and road taxes on the trucking industry are ridiculously low. "Traditional ways of generating money aren't working anymore," said Jonathan Barnett, the state Highway Commissioner from Siloam Springs, so the Good Suit Club wants local taxpayers to build some roads for them. Thirty-five white men packed the room. Jeff Hammonds from Wal-Mart a
nd its 7,000 truck fleet said they needed to address infrastructure to keep businesses strong. J.B. Hunt trucking executives were there to demand passage, as was Scott Van Laningham from XNA. Ed Clifford of the Bentonville/Bella Vista Chamber of Commerce told them that residents need to pony up $1.6 billion in new taxes to fund this scheme. No one spoke against it.

It is all about getting local residents to build high dollar bypasses for Bella Vista and Springdale, which the unelected
Northwest Arkansas Council of Corporations and Wealthy Business Executives have decided for us that these are their top priority. Not a dime for light rail or public transportation that would reduce congestion, save energy, support sustainability, and improve transportation for the elderly, the disabled, and the moderate income employees.

Governor Beebe is considering calling a special legislative session to raise the severance tax on natural gas and dedicate the entire $50-$100 million annual revenue to highways. If every last penny of that went to the
Northwest Arkansas Council of Corporations and Wealthy Business Executives' Regional Mobility Authority, it would still be $600 million to $1.1 billion shy of what they are demanding from local residents. And just for fun, let's start a pool on how many of the Republican state legislators from Northwest Arkansas will be voting to increase the severance tax on the extractions by big energy companies.

Mike Malone
said the business group will be asking the Washington County Quorum Court to approve its taxing authority and eminent domain power next week, and don't expect the Fayetteville Chamber of Cowbirds or Jeff Koenig's FEDC to oppose this plan to tax you like they killed the city's proposed road impact fees on developers. Our Quorum Court might consider finding funds to expand public transit and improve the bridges on our county roads before they start raising our taxes to build a Bella Vista Truck Bypass for Wal-Mart, Tyson, and J.B. Hunt.

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