The new speaker of the Arkansas House said last week that lawmakers should find some way to fund needed improvements to the state’s highway system without taking the issue to voters.

Rep. Robert Moore, D-Arkansas City, said if that is not possible, then he would be agreeable to a recommendation by the Blue Ribbon Committee on Highway Finance that voters should decide on a 0.5% increase in the sales tax rate to support up to $1.8 billion of 10-year bonds for road projects.

“I personally feel that the folks who elected me to come up here, elected me to identify the problems and then deal with [them],” Moore said in an address to the Arkansas Press Association.

Proceeds from the bonds would finance a five-year program to build a system of four-lane highways connecting major cities in the state.

If voters reject a constitutional amendment authorizing the road bonds, Moore said, it would be difficult for the Legislature to provide for a funding mechanism in later sessions.

“The further we delay repairs we’re not doing now, they are going to be more expensive and the needs are going to escalate,” he said.

The 88th General Assembly convened Jan. 10.

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