LITTLE ROCK — A bank executive and former aide to Gov. Mike Beebe was named to the Arkansas Highway Commission on Thursday, saying he agrees with the Democratic governor's opposition to efforts to tap state general revenue for road improvements.
Beebe appointed Frank Scott Jr. of Little Rock to serve the remainder of former Commissioner John Burkhalter's term, which ends in January 2017. Burkhalter resigned from the commissioner earlier this month to focus on his bid for lieutenant governor next year.
Scott, 29, is a bank executive with First Security who worked on Beebe's policy staff for five years. He was Beebe's director of intergovernmental affairs when he left for First Security last year.
"This is a young man who served on my policy team and who I came away with enormous respect for because, number one, of how utterly smart he is and how he works so hard and how he deals with people and how he absorbs information and goes and gets it done," Beebe said at a news conference at the state Capitol.
The appointment gives Beebe a new ally on the panel against efforts backed by other commissioners and highway officials to transfer general revenue toward highways. The proposal, which failed before a House committee in March, would have transferred sales tax dollars from new and used vehicle sales to the state highway department and local governments once the state's sales tax collections exceed $2.25 billion.
Beebe objected to the idea and finance officials estimated the general revenue proposal would have taken away $22 million from the general fund in 2015 and $345 million by 2024.
"We like to say in the policy department, (general revenue) is to educate, medicate and incarcerate," Scott said, referring to the departments of Education, Human Services and Correction receiving the bulk of that money.
Scott noted that voters last year approved a sales tax increase for state highways and extended a bond program for road improvements in 2011.
"I don't think there's any need to take any dedicated money, but I still have a lot to learn and am willing to listen," he said.
Beebe has appointed four of the five members to the commission, who serve 10-year terms. Burkhalter had been named to the panel in 2011 to replace Cliff Hoofman, who was appointed in 2007 but stepped down after Beebe named him to the state Appeals Court. Hoofman now serves on the state Supreme Court.