A former gas company executive who is leading the effort to raise severance taxes in Arkansas blasted his opponents who are backed by big gas and oil companies.
"It's my belief that these people have built a house of cards and they based it on lies and when one card falls out, there will be another and another and another," said Sheffield Nelson.
Nelson's group, Committee for a Fair Severance Tax is collecting signatures to get the proposed rate hike before voters in November.
Opponents say hiking the severance tax from 5 to 7 percent on gas companies will eliminate thousands of jobs. The state taxes gas companies for extracting gas. The revenue from that tax is used to pay for infrastructure such as repairing roads that are affected by gas companies operations, specifically truck transports of the fuel.
"Should the severance tax proposal be successful, in excess of 8,300 jobs would be lost. That's bad for Arkansas and we don't want that to happen," said Lucas Hargrave, campaign manager for Arkansans for Jobs and Affordable Energy.
Those job figures are what Nelson disputed at a news conference in Little Rock earlier today.
"The only ones who have said that (potential job losses) are the ones making up that ruse and attempting to fool the public by saying that the jobs are going to leave the state," Nelson said.
Hargrove's group fired back with a news release calling Nelson's press conference an empty publicity stunt.
Nelson's group has until July 6 to collect at least 62,507 signatures to get on the November ballot but he is facing an uphill battle.
Around 300 people in March rallied against a proposed hike in the severance tax.
In addition, the group opposing the proposed hike has over $1 million in its warchest compared to Belson's group which has raised just over $155,000, according to campaign finance disclosure statements.
Perhaps the biggest battle Nelson will have is finding enough voters who understand the issue.
Almost all the people KARK spoke with today to get their opinions either didn't know anything about the issue or declined to go on camera.Only one man talked to us on the record and was clear about the issue.
Doug Serfass gets money from the gas companies because of land his wife inherited. Serfass said he favors upping the tax.