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Where does your Eastern Panhandle state representative stand on the road bond referendum?


The Journal

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Voted in the road bond referendum yet?

Early voting ended yesterday in the referendum on the Roads to Prosperity highways bond amendment, and Saturday is the last day to cast your up or down vote on the issue. If a “yes” vote prevails from West Virginia residents on the amendment, the state Legislature would receive the authority to issue up to $1.6 billion in general revenue bonds–a financial decision to accelerate funding for various highway projects across the state over the next four years.

Six currently unfunded Eastern Panhandle highway projects in Berkeley, Jefferson and Morgan counties are specifically earmarked by Gov. Jim Justice’s administration to receive an estimated $97 million in road bond funding if voters approve the statewide Roads to Prosperity amendment.

In addition, Justice and his administration have maintained other highway projects totaling about $195.5 million for the Eastern Panhandle.

Additional projects across the state also would be advanced with help from other sources of funding if voters approve the amendment during the referendum.

If approved by West Virginia voters, the debt from the approximately $1.6 billion in Roads to Prosperity highway bonds would be paid off from annual revenues totaling about $130 million from increases in state gasoline and vehicle sales taxes and motor vehicle fees that took effect in July, Justice and his administration have said. Already approved fee increases for toll roads in five counties also factor into the final highway funding mix in different ways, including depending on whether the highway bonds are approved, state officials have said.

If state voters reject the road bond referendum, Justice and his staff members said they would have to fund (and re-prioritize) various state highway projects at a slower “pay as you go” pace using the $130 million in new tax and fee revenues as it accumulates year by year.

On one side of the issue, Justice, who recently changed political parties to become a Republican, has pursued a vigorous public relations campaign asking voters to approve the road bond amendment to give an economic and jobs boost to West Virginia. On the other side of the issue, many state Republican leaders have publicly opposed the highway bond issue. A GOP resolution adopted by 100 lawmakers cites their opposition as responsible fiscal management of government spending.

The Journal reached out to members of the Eastern Panhandle’s state delegation the morning of Friday, Sept. 29 to ask them if they support the Roads to Prosperity amendment. The Journal requested a response by midday Monday.

So where does your state senator or delegate stand?

Eight state lawmakers representing the Eastern Panhandle didn’t respond to the Journal’s invitation to address their constituents on the road bond referendum. Those include Sen. Patricia Rucker (R-Berkeley, Jefferson), Sen. John Unger (D-Berkeley, Jefferson), Del. Saira Blair (R-Morgan), Del. S. Marshall Wilson (R-Berkeley), Del. Jason Barrett (D-Berkeley), Del. John Overington (R-Berkeley), Del. Eric Householder (R-Berkeley) and Del. Jill Upson (R-Jefferson).

Six state lawmakers representing the Eastern Panhandle–Sen. Craig Blair (R-Berkeley, Morgan), Sen. Charles S. Trump (R-Berkeley, Morgan), Del. Daryl Cowles (R-Morgan), Del. Paul Espinosa (R-Jefferson), Del. Michael Folk (R-Berkeley) and Del. Riley Moore (R-Jefferson)–responded.

Here are their declared votes, and any explanations they might have submitted:

Sen. Craig Blair (R-Berkeley, Morgan)

Sen. Craig Blair

Your referendum vote: Yes for amendment.

Reason for your vote (in his own words): I voted “YES” because interest rates are at historical lows and construction material costs are low because of lower crude oil prices.

Legislatively we’ve eliminated the Prevailing Wage Rates which also significantly reduce construction dollars costs. West Virginia currently has over $8 billion in road repair needs and this bond would address roughly $1.6 billion of those needs. I’ll use a roof repair analogy to close. If I had a $1,000 roof leak that needed repaired but I didn’t have the money, I would borrow the money because by the time I saved the money up, the roof damage could have doubled, tripled or more.

Finally, even though we’ve reduced bureaucratic red tape and passed major tort and employment reforms, we can’t expect businesses to expand or locate in West Virginia if we don’t have the highway infrastructure to support their business activities. I’ve both driven and witnessed major improvements at all levels of state government and I honestly believe now is the time to invest in West Virginia’s future.

Del. Daryl Cowles (R-Morgan)

Delegate Daryl Cowles

Your referendum vote: Yes for amendment.

Reason for your vote (in his own words): There are many good reasons to support improved infrastructure, road repairs and highway construction. These investments and improvements will generate tens of thousands of construction jobs as well as improve our state economy and our overall long-term job growth.

Here in the Eastern Panhandle we have about $200 million in highway projects possible with the Road Bond including $46 million in Morgan County. The funding source is already in place and the interest rates are low. The people of the Mountain State will benefit from investments in better roads, more jobs and no additional taxes.

Del. Paul Espinosa (R-Jefferson)

Your referendum vote: Yes for amendment.

Reason for your vote (in his own words): While I opposed S.B. 1006 that enacted several tax and fee increases prior to voter consideration of the road bond, with that estimated $130 million in additional funding now in place, I’m persuaded that accelerating construction and maintenance at historically low 3 to 4 percent bond rates is fiscally preferable to a pay-as-you-go approach that would be subject to inflation rates in the 4.5 percent range and will be voting in favor of the bond.

Del. Paul Espinosa, R-Jefferson

Sen. Charles S. Trump (R-Berkeley, Morgan)

Your referendum vote: Yes for amendment.

Reason for your vote: No explanation submitted.

Del. Michael Folk (R-Berkeley)

Your referendum vote: No against amendment.

Reason for your vote: No explanation submitted.

Del. Riley Moore (R-Jefferson)

Your referendum vote: No against amendment.

Reason for your vote: No explanation submitted.

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