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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Watershed to be on ballot

Friday, October 17, 2008

Nov. 4 is a big day for the people and for the U.S. government. Arkansans have many controversial issues on the ballot, including unmarried couples adopting or fostering children and a state lottery. There is also an amendment allowing anyone who wants to be a voting official, including state employees, to apply.

A watershed issue shouldn't be a big deal, but it is, if millions of Arkansans' dollars are at stake. The issue is supposed to help areas around Arkansas with grants for water projects, which can possibly help local economies.

According to the Arkansas Association of Conservation Districts (AACD), "Referred Question 1 will give the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission (ANRC) the authority to issue up to $300 million in water and wastewater bonds. The ANRC has successfully used these types of bonds to complete a variety of water, sewer and waste disposal projects in counties, cities and towns all across Arkansas. Question 1 will allow us to build on the ANRC's legacy of success by extending their bond authority by another 10 years."

According to The Associated Press, Sept. 30, Gov. Mike Beebe said he believes the question will pass as long as voters understand it won't raise their taxes. With today's economy going the way it is, most people don't want to spend any more money than they have to.

Though Beebe said the projects funded through this issue could help the economy, if the issue doesn't pass it won't affect his plans for lowering the state's sales tax on groceries.

"Certainly roads, water systems, sewer systems, all of those things are significant factors in whether we can expand economic development," Beebe said at a news conference supporting the question on the Nov. 4 ballot. "As I've said all along, the more we can expand economic development, the broader we can make the tax base in Arkansas, the more we can lower taxes."

On their Web site, www.aracd.org, the AACD states, "If we fail to pass Question 1, Arkansans would lose roughly $14 to $20 million per year in federal matching dollars from the Clean Water and Drinking Water Revolving Loan Funds. The ANRC would also no longer be able to provide below market rate loans for water and sewage expansion projects so counties, cities and towns would have to scale back on planned developments so we'd all pay more for expensive water and sewage projects."

The question had some resistance from lawmakers and other groups because of concerns that it would encourage urbanization of unincorporated areas. But the proposal won the Arkansas Municipal League over. "We pretty well had our concerns addressed and that was pretty much the holdup on the league getting behind the proposal," Don Zimmerman, the league's executive director said.

"Lowering the grocery tax is not dependent on (this issue). Lowering other taxes might be dependent on whether or not your economy grows," Beebe said.

"The Fulton County Water Authority greatly supports the issue. We stress that it would not be any cost to water authority members at this time. We suggest that everybody vote Yes on this issue because it could be a great benefit to the water authority in the future," Sherry Jackson of the Fulton County Water Authority said. "Voting Yes would not raise your water bill and it will give us better grant resources for growth and improvement."

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