Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe is expected this week to set a Nov. 8 election on extending the state’s existing $575 million Garvee road bond program to pay for maintenance on 300 miles of interstate highway.

If approved by voters, the grant anticipation revenue bonds would be issued after the program’s outstanding debt matures in August 2014.

Approval would not require an increase in the diesel tax of 27.8 cents per gallon, 4 cents of which helps support the bonds.

Beebe said in May that he would put the constitutional amendment to a vote.  But the Democratic governor declined at that point to say whether it would be a special election this year or at the general election in November 2012.

If voters approved the Garvee extension, the Highway and Transportation Department would issue the bonds under a program that began with voter authorization in 1999.

The original $575 million of grant anticipation revenue vehicle bonds will mature in August 2014. Under Act 153 of 2009, which authorized the election, the new bonds must be issued by Dec. 31, 2015.

When the road bond proposal was first being considered in the General Assembly earlier this year, lawmakers estimated the cost of a special election at $750,000.

The original plan had called for $1.1 billion of bonds but the debt total was reduced when the Arkansas Trucking Association said it could not support asking voters to increase the diesel fuel tax by five cents per gallon to back the additional debt.

The association, which had initially proposed the tax hike, withdrew its support in June because it feared the tax increase would not pass.

“The trucking industry can ill-afford to set precedent nationally by failing to pass a self-imposed fuel tax to improve highways,” president Lane Kidd said in a letter to Beebe.

A separate road program will be on the November 2012 ballot. Voters then will be asked to approve a constitutional amendment to increase the state sales tax rate by 0.5% to support $1.8 billion of highway bonds.

Bond proceeds would finance a network of four-lane highways linking major cities.

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