We are having a difficult time decided whether or not we should advocate the passage of the upcoming Road Bond issue to voted on October 7.
What we know:
The Bond Issue will allow the state to sell $1.6 billion in bonds for road construction and improvements. However, another number is being bandied saying state officials are planning projects amounting to $2.8 billion. The difference is apparently going to be made up in federal matching dollars. Since this is the federal government we are talking about there is no assurance that additional money will be available.
So you will be voting only for $1.6 billion in bonds and hoping the feds will match their share. And since they can’t balance their budget, don’t hold your breath.
The WV Press Association held a conference call update on the bond referendum for member newspapers a couple of weeks ago. It summarized the state as proposing $2.8 billion in road construction and maintenance projects with work in each county of the state.
Now, it is NOT true that your personal or business taxes will be increased to pay off these bonds. The Legislature did, however, approve increases in wholesale taxes on gasoline, the sales tax on vehicles, and Department of Motor Vehicle fees. Those went into effect July 1 and will supposedly raise $130 million a year to be applied toward paying off the bonds. This, of course, depends on West Virginians continuing to buy gasoline and cars to be registered in the state. With 22 border counties and gas prices cheaper in some of our neighboring states, this might not be as easy as first thought.
[private] In the event that the bond issue fails, that $130 million will be used for pay-as-you-go road work.
More numbers . . . a list of road projects by county adds up to around 900 across the state. To put that in to perspective there are only 12 projects identified in Hardy County and from what we read, none of them have anything to do with completing Corridor H to the Virginia line.
In other words, this is work that is needed, but there is no guarantee it will be done anytime soon with or without the bond issue passage.
So now you see our dilemma. We need roads to be built, repaired and maintained and we need the money to do that. West Virginia, like many other states in today’s economy is pretty much broke. The bond issue is one way to fund our transportation needs.
Now we have a governor who says Corridor H will be finished. We’ve heard this before. But he doesn’t even have the segments that need to be finished on his Roads to Prosperity highway program. He’s mentioned one in Tucker County, but it’s already under contract so his program doesn’t have anything to do with it.
We aren’t sure Gov. Justice knows much about Hardy County or even cares. We have no coal, just chickens and wood manufacturers. And we like that just fine. In other words, we aren’t sure we can count on his support.
We also wish the Governor would quit announcing that this bond issue will bring 48,000 jobs to West Virginians. There might that many temporary jobs created for constructing $2.8 billion in highways and bridges, but if the contracts go to out-of-state firms there’s no law that says they have to hire in-state people.
Finally, even with all these negatives and since we do support the future of West Virginia as well as Hardy County, we will probably vote for the bond issue. It won’t be with enthusiasm, but the bond money is necessary if the state is going build roads to bring in business, industry and jobs.
If you want to know more about the October 7 road bond proposal vote you will have a chance on Thursday, October 5. At 6 p.m. District 5 Engineer J. Lee Thorne will be at Eastern Community College to present information and answer questions. The informative meeting is sponsored by the Hardy County Chamber of Commerce and the college. It is open to the public.
This is the only chance between now and the election for you to obtain information locally.