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Vote 'no' on highway bonds

by and


Financing government work with bonds is a mystifying process, and bond lawyers and underFrom now on, do you want all your federal and state taxes that are earmarked for repairing the interstate routes to be spent on the highways, or would you prefer to deposit a third of the taxes into the pockets of wealthy investors?

No, really, that is the heart of Referred Question 1, which would empower the Highway Commission to issue bonds for interstate repairs in six or seven years, when the current interstate bonds are paid off, and then to keep on issuing them whenever it pleases. As long as the outstanding debt never exceeded $575 million the commission could issue bonds until doomsday without an election.

There’s no need to ponder whether the Constitution can be contorted to permit such an outrageous bypass around the state’s old guarantee of popular rule because the courts will sort that out. You can settle the bond question merely on its financial wisdom without contemplating all the legal issues.

Bonds are always a wasteful way to finance government because so much of the public monies are drained off to pay interest to the lenders — those who buy the bonds — and to underIn six years, Arkansas has repaired 356 miles of its interstate system — those in dismal shape — at a cost of about $1.1 billion, including interest. The issuance of $575 million in bonds in 2000 and 2001, which accounts for half of that $1.1 billion, quickened the pace of improving those 356 miles by only two to four years. Don’t buy the figures of the bond proponents. They are based on exaggerated inflation for pay-as-you-go work.

Gov. Huckabee and the bond crowd are saying that interstates will be in such rotten condition for as long as we all shall live that it justifies giving investors a third of our interstate tax revenues in perpetuity. If that is true, should it not also be the remedy for all our highways, not just interstates? Come to think of it, Huckabee is waiting on lawmakers to come up with a bond plan for them, too, before he calls a special session.

Perpetually expanding debt is the national Republican doctrine but let’s don’t make it ours.

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