LITTLE ROCK — Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Thursday named four items he wants a work group on highway funding to consider but said that as far as he is concerned, "everything is on the table" as the panel prepares to tackle the issue.

LITTLE ROCK — Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Thursday named four items he wants a work group on highway funding to consider but said that as far as he is concerned, "everything is on the table" as the panel prepares to tackle the issue.


The Governor’s Working Group on Highway Funding will hold its first meeting June 24, Hutchinson told the Arkansas Good Roads/Transportation Council, which met at the Little Rock headquarters of the Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas.


"We need to look at vehicle miles traveled as a potential means of calculating taxes," he said. "This has always been a challenge in the past, but some states are looking at it, some states are adopting it, piloting it. I think Oregon is one of those states. We need to learn from how they’re doing it and their experiment. To me, as technology develops it’s important to look at VMT-type models."


The governor also said tolls should be on the table. He said he knows the issue has been issued for decades, and there are objections to it, but "that should be a part of the discussion."


"And then, I think we have to look at the role of local governments. They’ve always been an important part of the mix," Hutchinson said. "I think we always have to look at whether we have the right allocation of responsibility for local roads, state highways, federal highways."


Finally, the governor said he wants the work group to look at public-private partnerships and whether they can help with highway construction.


"A public-private partnership does not necessarily enhance the flow of public money. It just simply gives a different model to accelerate construction," he said.


Hutchinson said some states address highway needs by raising per-gallon fuel taxes, but he said that "I would like to see us really give close examination to a new funding model that starts very modestly."


"I think that’s going to be the big debate," he said. "There will be many that will say we’ve got to have an immediate infusion because the needs are so great. But you have to deal in political reality, and the reality is you’ve got an anti-tax sentiment."


Hutchinson said changing the funding formula, and possibly linking it to the consumer price index, may lead to growth in highway funding as the economy grows.


State highway officials have said fuel tax revenues have tended to decline as vehicles become more fuel-efficient.


"You’ve got to take a long-term view of highway funding and not just a short-term view," Hutchinson said.


During this year’s regular legislative session, Hutchinson opposed a bill that would have used general revenue to boost highway funding. Talking to reporters Thursday, he said that using general revenue and raising the fuel tax are ideas that the work group likely will discuss, along with many others.


"I think everything is on the table," he said.


Hutchinson noted that colleges and universities, which in the past have opposed using general revenue for highways, are represented on the work group.


"Any solution that we come up with needs to have support beyond the transportation industry," he said. "It needs to have the support of higher education, that wants to see our economy grow as well. So that’s why they’re there. They want to make sure that education is not weakened because of whatever funding mechanism we recommend for highways."