An interim draft report from a special committee looking at Arkansas highway financing includes an option for a 10-year, 0.5% sales tax that would back a bond program.

The initial proposal would also phase in a redirection of current sales tax revenues on new and used vehicles, vehicle-repair parts and services, tires, and batteries to support the state’s highway bond program.

The 18-member Arkansas Blue Ribbon Committee on Highway Finance estimated the taxes would generate $8.33 billion over 10 years.

Dan Flowers, director of the State Highway and Transportation Department, said at least an additional $200 million a year is needed to maintain the current system of state and local roads.

The committee was formed by the General Assembly in 2009 to define an adequate system to finance improvements to state, county, and city roads and streets.

The interim report is due July 1 with the final report by Dec. 1. The General Assembly will convene for its 2011 session in January.

However, both co-chairmen of the committee said at a post-meeting news conference last week that the lawmakers may not be ready to draft legislation that incorporates the group’s recommendations.

Sen. John Paul Capps, D-Searcy, said he does not expect highway financing to be a major issue in next year’s session while Rep. Allen Maxwell, D-Monticello, said the final report would not be issued until a month before the legislature convenes.

Maxwell said that would not give lawmakers enough time to draft legislation based on the committee’s recommendations.

In addition, he said, there could be 40 new members in the 100-member House.

“I don’t know if in 2011 they will do anything or not,” Maxwell said. “It may go out to 2013. That’s going to be up to the next legislature.”

Capps and Maxwell cannot seek re-election to the General Assembly due to term limitation legislation.

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