Before Arkansas talks seriously about a tax increase for road construction, John Brummett writes, it needs to address the imperial highway commission and the increasingly disproportionate way it spends money around the state.
In short, money should follow people and cars, not the whims of the highway potentates who often favor autobahn quality roads to places like Camden, Warren and Perryville that happen to correspond to home addresses of highway commission members. The spending is disproportionate even in ways that could be remedied within the current system. Rep. Donna Hutchinson has a persuasive graphic display on this that she's doggedly presenting to all who will listen. Writes Brummett:
Forgive me if I’m starting to sound like a big trucker barreling down an interstate highway as the pavement crumbles beneath his 18 wheels. But truckers aren’t wrong about everything. And the idea that money doesn’t appropriately follow traffic in Arkansas because these five independent commissioners serve 10 antiquated districts dating to an earlier era and giving inordinate attention to rural areas where you might see a lonely pickup now and then — well, the truckers are quite likely in the vicinity of correct about that one.
But what of economic development? What of providing better transportation to facilitate growth in poor rural areas?
I’m for that. After we take money off the top to go where the cars and trucks are, we ought to set aside some for that purpose.
But let’s not forget this: We already take highway user money off the top for turnback to cities and counties. I’d favor increasing that percentage if what was left was strategically spent according to traffic needs and if it was spent by somebody answerable to someone I voted for.