This week we headed back to the Capitol for a special session to address highway funding.
The session is being called now because we face an important deadline to receive $200 million from the federal government for our infrastructure.
On December 4, 2015, the President signed into law the Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act (FAST Act). The FAST Act funds surface transportation programs at over $305 billion for fiscal years 2016 through 2020. It is the first long-term surface transportation authorization enacted in a decade that provides long-term funding certainty for surface transportation.
In order for states to receive funds they must provide a match. This means Arkansas would have to provide $47 million in additional funds the first year to receive $200 million in federal funds.
The state has to signify to the federal government that it has met the obligation by mid August. If we do not provide the match the funds will be distributed to other states.
In the most recent Fiscal Session, we approved a fund transfer of $50 million from the state's surplus to the Governor's Rainy Day Fund. The special session would allow for us to vote on legislation authorizing that the funds can be used for this match.
There are several proposals about how to provide the match in future years. Over the next 10 years, Arkansas could receive up to $2 billion in federal highway money if it provides a $50 million match annually.
The Highway Department does not have enough revenue currently to cover those costs. The Highway Department receives most of its funding from taxes on fuel and those revenues have been in decline.
The Highway Department Statewide Transportation Improvement Program calls for projects in every county of the state from 2016-2020. These include everything from noise reduction projects to widening heavily travelled roads.
We will continue to keep you updated on how we plan to fund these projects that are essential to our economic development.