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Editorial: Bill paved with good intentions

From the Dominion Post of Morgantown:

You need not pray the road in West Virginia will rise up to meet you.

It already does. But rather than meet you, it beats you and your vehicle.

No one need cite reports, studies or research on this score. It’s already assumed.

Problem is, everyone agrees we must find a way to repair and maintain our roads, but too few want to pay for it.

However, Senate Bill 477 may partially decide that for us if it continues to advance.

You might say, it puts us on the road to generating an additional $34 million for the State Road Fund.

Yes, it comes with a cost — by one lobbyist’s estimate about $90 a year for the average West Virginian.

But that’s about $910 less that most of us average paying for the damage caused by our road conditions.

This week, the Senate Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure passed SB 477, a bill to raise DMV fees and fuel taxes.

Though the bill was introduced by the governor, it won bipartisan support by that panel.

The committee version of the bill preserves many of Gov. Jim Justice’s proposed DMV fee increases, while actually raising the mark on others.

The governor’s proposals on the state’s two motor fuel taxes were both left intact — a nearly 5-cent hike on the flat fuel tax and an increase on the average wholesale price.

Six years ago, we lent our support to similar legislation that would have raised DMV fees — stagnant for decades — to a regional average.

In 2011, that bill, won the Legislature’s approval on a largely partisan vote, only to be vetoed by Democratic Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin.

We reviewed the 11 DMV fees that would have increased then and were struck by how low they were, compared to the regional average in neighboring states.

Many of these fees have not been updated since the early 1980s, while at least three of them were last increased in the 1950s.

Our newspaper has argued time and time again that such fees — from utilities to fire departments — should increase incrementally, rather than all at once.

Some argue the fuel tax hikes will cause border bleed. Some of that is likely to happen.

Still, we would hope that most of us are willing to put our money where our mouths are to improve our roads

We like fee and tax hikes no more than anyone else. But nothing is going to change unless we rise up to meet our responsibility.

Some legislators may swerve in time to prevent SB 477 from passing, to improve their odds of re-election.

Yet, we are all still on a collision course with the condition of our roads.

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