DALLAS – A cap on general obligation bonds for economic development would be lifted if voters in Arkansas approve one of five statewide propositions on the Nov. 8 ballot.
Voters will also decide whether to legalize marijuana for medical uses.
A proposition to allow casinos in three counties will also appear on the ballot, but those votes will not be counted after the state Supreme Court ruled the ballot language was improper.
If voters approve Issue 3, the state constitution will be amended to lift a cap on bonds for economic development. Currently, the constitution limits the volume of economic development bonds to 5% of the general revenue collected in the fiscal year.
The proposed amendment would also allow counties and municipalities to issue their own bonds and permits chambers of commerce to receive funds from local governments.
The amendment would also allow state legislators to authorize the use of other taxes to pay off municipal and county bond debt and remove a requirement that municipal and county bonds may be sold only at public sale.
Another provision would allow cities, towns, school districts and counties to form compacts for economic development projects.
"Right now, the Arkansas Constitution includes a patchwork of economic development language and definitions, making it difficult, and in some instances, impossible, for local communities to take full advantage of many of the state's most valuable job creation tools," according to a statement from supporters known as "Jobs for Arkansas."
"This amendment would clean up those inconsistencies, provide additional opportunities for cities and municipalities to participate in economic development efforts, and enhance the state's ability to attract large employers to Arkansas."
Advocates say that many cities and counties currently collect a voter-approved sales tax for economic development, but the state constitution is unclear how the money can be spent, leaving local communities vulnerable as they work to create jobs.
"This amendment makes clear that cities and counties have authority to spend economic development sales tax revenue on economic development projects," supporters said.
Opponents of Issue 3 say the measure could be harmful to taxpayers by allowing cities to give tax dollars to chambers of commerce.
The opponents joined a lawsuit against the cities of Little Rock and North Little Rock to stop city payments to their chambers. Cities are prohibited from making payments to private entities, and chambers of commerce are considered private entities.
"The taxpayers of Little Rock have been used for these corporate welfare entities," said Tony Orr, spokesman for the opponents, told Little Rock TV station KATV. "They said it was going to bring in jobs or that it would create jobs, but it only creates jobs in areas that benefit the chamber. It's not creating jobs in other areas of Little Rock."
A proposal to allow casinos in three counties in southwest and northwest Arkansas was struck down by the Arkansas Supreme Court on Oct. 13. The court sided with a group known as Committee to Preserve Arkansas Values/Stop Casinos Now, saying that the ballot title of the proposed amendment was insufficient because it failed to inform voters that federal law prohibits Arkansas and other states from authorizing sports gambling.
The court also struck down one of two measures that would legalize the use of marijuana for medical purposes. The surviving question, Issue 6, allows use and cultivation of marijuana for medical purposes while noting that marijuana is still illegal under federal law.