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Arkansas voters on Tuesday approved permanently extending a half-cent sales tax for highways and loosening term limits for legislators, but rejected efforts to impose new restrictions on ballot initiatives.
All three proposals were referred to voters by the majority-Republican Legislature.
The highway tax had the backing of Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson and the state’s top lobbying groups, including the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce and the Arkansas Trucking Association. Groups on the right and left, including Americans for Prosperity and the Sierra Club, campaigned against it.
“I’m delighted by the results, and I look forward to building better roads, a stronger economy, and a safer Arkansas in every corner of the state,” Hutchinson said in a statement.
The governor toured the state on Oct. 19, the first day of early voting, in support of the measure. Supporter said the measure would create 3,600 jobs per year and $8.2 billion in activity over 10 years. Opponents called it a tax increase.
In another statement, Arkansas Highway Commission Chairman Robert Moore said the vote on the tax “shows that Arkansas citizens see the value of a strong road and highway system.” He said the commission and the highway department “look forward with anticipation to the future where we have the resources to provide Arkansans with safe, smart and efficient roads and bridges.”
With 100% of precincts reporting, the vote for the highway tax was:
- FOR — 55.29% — 644,658 votes
- AGAINST — 44.71% — 521,344 votes
The term limits measure removes the current 16-year cap and instead requires politicians who have served 12 straight years to sit out of the Legislature for four years before running again.
With 100% of precincts reporting, the vote for the term limits measure was:
- FOR — 55.35% — 632,886 votes
- AGAINST — 44.65% — 510,564 votes
Arkansas is currently one of 15 states with term limit laws — 35 states do not have them. Arkansas also has the highest maximum number of years legislators can serve, 16. And the state is one of six with lifetime limits on service.
The rejected measure on ballot initiative would have imposed several new limits, including tripling the number of counties where sponsors would have to collect a minimum number of signatures.
With 100% of precincts reporting, the vote for the ballot initiative measure was:
- FOR — 44.09% — 491,915 votes
- AGAINST — 55.91% — 623,770 votes
Lawmakers endorsed the ballot restrictions after the state’s voters in recent years legalized medical marijuana, raised the minimum wage and expanded casino gambling.
(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)