Poll: Tax-hike proposals for highway improvements face rough road sent: July 24, 2012

LITTLE ROCK — A pair of tax increase proposals to raise money for highway improvements face a rough road to approval, results of a new poll released Tuesday show. Nearly half of respondents to the Talk Business-Hendrix College Poll said they were against a proposed constitutional amendment on the Nov. 6 general election ballot for a temporary half-cent sales tax increase to fund a statewide four-lane highway system.

A proposed initiated act to raise the state severance tax fared worse, with only one-third of respondents in


The poll used automated phone calls to survey 585 likely voters in the state last Thursday. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent. Results showed 49.5 percent opposed a constitutional change referred to the November ballot by the Legislature that would raise the sales tax by a half-cent over 10 years to fund a $1.8 billion highway bond program.

Forty-two percent said they favored the proposal and 8 percent said they did not know. The survey also queried respondents on their support for a proposal to raise the state severance tax from 5 percent with some exemptions to a flat 7 percent.

The sponsor of the proposed ballot initiative, former natural gas executive Sheffield Nelson, has said the measure would raise as much as $250 million for state and local highway improvements.

Poll results showed 54.5 percent of respondents opposed the measure, 33 percent said they supported it and 12.5 percent did not know.

Nelson on Tuesday suspended his campaign to qualify the proposed initiated act for the November ballot after the secretary of state’s office last week announced it had disqualified 70 percent of the signatures his supporters submitted for certification.

Nelson’s Committee for a Fair Severance Tax submitted 69,717 signatures, of which Secretary of State Mark Martin determined 21,347 were valid signatures of registered voters. The group needs 62,507 valid signatures to qualify the proposal for the November ballot.

The group would have until August 20 to make up the difference. Nelson said Tuesday he would confer with supporters and decide by next week whether to proceed.