The Arkansas Trucking Association plans to seek voter approval next year for an increase in the state tax on diesel fuel to finance highway construction projects.

ATA president Lane Kidd said the group intends to lobby the 2013 legislative session to put a constitutional amendment for the fuel tax increase before voters.

The current session is limited to budget issues.

If lawmakers adopt the proposal, voters would decide on the increase at a statewide election.

Kidd said the trucking association had not determined the size of the increase it would seek.

The association was at first behind a 5 cent-per-gallon diesel fuel increase last year that would have supported up to $600 million of revenue bonds for maintenance and construction of the state’s Interstate highway system.

The truckers group withdrew their support of the tax increase in June 2011. In a letter to Gov. Mike Beebe asking him to remove the diesel tax from that November’s ballot, Kidd said the measure was likely to fail at the special election, which would be a significant setback to highway improvement efforts.

“The trucking industry can ill afford to set precedent nationally by failing to pass a self-imposed fuel tax to improve highways,” Lane said in the 2011 letter. “This scenario will likely occur if the election is held, jeopardizing the industry’s ability to build support for future funding of highways in this manner.”

Voters approved a $575 million extension of the state’s existing grant anticipation revenue bonds program in November 2011.

The bonds are supported by federal transportation grants and a portion of the state gasoline tax.

If the diesel tax had been increased to support the program, the state would have been able to issue $1.1 billion of revenue bonds.

The current state tax on diesel fuel is 22.8 cents per gallon of diesel fuel. The federal tax is 24.4 cents per gallon.

A proposed constitutional amendment on the November 2012 ballot would raise the state sales tax rate by 0.5% for 10 years to support $1.3 billion of revenue bonds.

The proceeds are earmarked for construction of a network of four-lane highways between major cities in the state.

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