by Max Brantley
Attorney General Dustin McDaniel's office has issued an opinion on a list of questions related to operation of a "regional mobility authority," a device established by statute to give Northwest Arkansas a means to raise local money to address pressing transportation problems in the fast-growing region.
Several points in the opinion seem important. The money may be spent regionally. That is, money raised in Benton County does not have to be spent only in Benton County. The Authority itself, with members from cities and counties, may not refer a tax increase to voters. The taxes must be referred by governing bodies — such as Quorum Courts or city boards. A county sales tax vote could be conditioned on approval in other counties. Other city and county taxes not specifically dedicated to an authority can't be diverted to the regional authority.
The attorney general was negative, though not firmly so, in saying the regional authority could not fund a project deemed of benefit to the region that did not directly benefit one of the member counties.