Sheffield Nelson Submits Measure to Increase Severance Tax

LITTLE ROCK, AR (AP) - Former utility chief Sheffield Nelson has filed a proposal to raise the state's severance tax on natural gas production, as industry activity increases in Arkansas' underground Fayetteville Shale reserve.

Nelson says the measure would increase one of the country's lowest severance taxes and raise between $60 million and $100 million annually for Arkansas highways, local governments and higher education.

Nelson, a former top executive at Arkla, submitted the proposed initiated act to the attorney general's office today, the first step before he can begin gathering the 61,974 voter signatures needed to place the measure on the November ballot.

The proposal would increase the state's severance tax from three-tenths of one cent per 1,000 cubic feet of gas to 7 percent of the market value of the natural gas at the time of extraction.

Nelson says he is forming a campaign committee to support the proposal, and he hopes to raise $1 million for the campaign.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)