Earlier in the week, the Committee for a Fair Severance Tax launched its facebook page.
This proposed initiated act will raise the severance tax in Arkansas to 7% and on par with those in the adjoining natural gas producing states of Texas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma. In the last fiscal year, the natural gas companies had $3.5 billion in sales and paid $54.9 million in severance taxes or a rate of only 1.5%. These companies have damaged highways, city streets and county roads to the tune of over $450 million and have seriously impacted our environment. They have done this while extracting billions in our precious non-renewable resources, mostly for sale in other states, at bargain rates, because our severance tax is the fourth lowest among the 30 gas producing states. The damage caused to our infrastructure and environment will only get worse, not better because large multinational companies have now entered the state to extract our natural gas.
The Arkansas Legislature had the opportunity to increase the severance tax during the 2011 legislative session, but under intense pressure from the natural gas companies, declined to do so. Now the people of Arkansas must take a stand to protect the infrastructure and environment of our state. It will take over 62,500 valid signatures to place this important initiative on the ballet in 2012 which, if passed, will produce almost $250 million each year for the construction and repair of highways, streets and roads.
This needs to happen. Our state legislators are almost all bought and paid for by the gas companies, with a few rare exceptions. So it’s going to be up to we the people. It won’t be easy. The gas companies bussed a ton of astroturfed “concerned citizens” to the legislature to fight new environmental protections last year and was able to buy itself a “shale caucus.” You can damn well bet that they’ll fight this tooth and nail and that they’ll enlist the help of useful tools like the dopes at Secure Arkansas and the corrupt welfare queens at the Farm Bureau to help them. It’s not going to be easy, and I hope the folks leading the charge are ready to fight fire with fire. But anyway, if you want to help gather signatures for the ballot measure, here’s your contact info: