Beebe Says Lawmakers Have a Chance to Make History

LITTLE ROCK, AR - Governor Beebe called on lawmakers today to enact the first hike in the state's severance tax on natural gas in a half-century.

He said legislators have a chance to make history and create a new funding source for highway improvements in Arkansas without creating a tax burden on most Arkansans.

Beebe addressed a joint session of the House and Senate gathered for the special session, his first since becoming governor last year.  Shortly after his remarks, the House Revenue and Tax Committee recommended the full House approve Beebe's proposal.

Under Beebe's plan, the state would levy a base 5 percent tax on the market value of natural gas extracted, with exemptions built in for certain wells.

The currrent tax, three-tenths of 1 cent per 1,000 cubic feet of gas extracted, brings in about $660,000 annually.

The new tax, if approved, would eventually raise $100 million annually.

The governor hopes the session will take only three days.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)