The Jefferson County Quorum Court has set a vote for Dec. 9 on a proposal to levy a 0.5% countywide sales tax to fund economic development efforts in the southern Arkansas county.

Supporters said the tax would generate $45 million over 10 years to bring industry to Jefferson County and Pine Bluff, its largest city. State law would allow the tax revenues to be used for economic development projects, promoting the community to new industries, and job training,

The tax would be in addition to the state’s 6% sales tax, Jefferson County’s 1.5% sales tax, and Pine Bluff’s 1% sales tax. It would add $7 a year to the sales tax paid by a household with an income of $30,000.

Tommy May, chairman and chief executive officer of Pine Bluff-based Simmons First National, told the court a similar economic development tax was approved by Mississippi County in northeast Arkansas in 2003. Revenues have helped that county attract more than 3,000 new jobs with an average salary of $40,000 a year.

Lou Ann Nisbett, president of the Economic Development Alliance of Jefferson County, said the tax revenue could not be used to relocate businesses from Pine Bluff to other areas of the county.

Pine Bluff, the largest city in Jefferson County, has lost at least 15 industries in the past decade. The city’s population has dropped from 57,140 in 1990 to a current estimate of less than 51,000.

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