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Gov. Justice, Mid-Ohio Valley politicians discuss road bond vote’s success


The Parkersburg News and Sentinel

PARKERSBURG — As the Roads To Prosperity Constitutional Amendment passed statewide to address needed road issues, local officials are hopeful the measure will deliver on the promise of economic growth without burdening the state’s taxpayers.

Newspaper, radio and television media representatives fill the West Virginia Secretary of State’s office Saturday night to monitor results of the special election on the Roads to Prosperity Amendment. During a conference call at 9 p.m., Secretary of State Mac Warner speaks with media including Andrea Lannom of The Register-Herald of Beckley, Rusty Marks of The State Journal, Mark Curtis of WOWK 13, Brad McElhinny of WV Metro News and many other media reporters who were monitored the election returns from the Capitol. Steven Allen Adams, assistant Communication Director for the Secretary of State, standing right/center, and Chuck Flannery, Deputy Secretary and Chief of State for the Secretary of State, standing right, worked with the media at the Capitol office.
(West Virginia Press Association photo0

With all precincts counted statewide by the West Virginia Secretary of State’s office, the unofficial tally, as of Sunday, has 87,751 in favor of the measure and 32,759 against. In Wood County, there were 3,689 in favor and 1,940 against.

“I am grateful to the people of West Virginia for sharing my vision to jump start our economic engine,” Gov. Jim Justice said in a statement released after the votes in Saturday’s special election had been counted. “While this will start the process of fixing our state road system, the most important mission I have is to help find and create jobs for the working men and women of our state.

“As I traveled from panhandle to panhandle, through the coal fields, along our rivers, and from all over the beautiful valleys of our majestic state, the citizens of West Virginia were clear that new jobs, safety for their families and good roads in their home counties were critical to improving their lives and giving them a chance to share the American Dream,” he said.

Saturday’s vote sought approval for the sale of $1.6 billion in bonds over four years for road improvement projects across the state.

This will include road repair, new road construction and finishing projects at various points in their development. The governor is looking for tax revenue to invest in the bonds to be leveraged into money to do the work.

The money to be leveraged will come from increases to the state’s annual vehicle registration fee from $30 to $50, raising West Virginia’s gasoline tax 3.3 percent and allowing residents the option of paying a yearly $8 flat fee to drive on the state’s toll roads, which is estimated to raise $132 million a year.

All of the work being proposed is expected to create 48,000 new jobs, state officials said. Officials said the funding means are in place and will not raise taxes.

Justice said they would begin the process today to get the bonding and bidding process started with giving contractors in West Virginia the priority on the work to be awarded and to make sure they hire West Virginia workers first.

“We are also going to work with all of our educational institutions to start training programs for this workforce,” Justice said. “I am also going to appoint an oversight committee to make certain we eliminate waste and any other shenanigans during the contracting, bidding and construction process.

“It’s an historical day because now we have the vehicle in place to truly move our state forward.”

State Senator Mike Azinger, R-Wood, was one of the lawmakers who did not support the measure as it was presented. The bond issue will put the state in debt for the next 25 years as the bonds are being paid off and the state will end up paying two to three times more than what they are getting out of it, he said.

“The roads do need attention,” he said. “I would have liked to have seen it done another way.”

Azinger said the bond issue was sold on the promise of no tax increases, but a number of increases were passed before the vote on the bond issue took place. The way the bonds are set up, it is possible to need a tax increase sometime in the future if there is a problem making the payments on the bonds.

The economy of the state is starting to improve with growth in a number of areas, Azinger said, adding the state could focus on developing businesses which could build up tax revenue to be able to address the state’s roads.

“I don’t like the idea of the state being in debt like this,” Azinger said. “It is just bad timing.”

Senate President Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson, commended voters for putting the welfare of the state first and giving it a chance to “truly thrive.”

“With the passage of this amendment, we have taken a tremendous step in moving West Virginia forward,” he said in a statement issued Saturday evening. “Soon, our state will see more jobs and better roads, and most importantly, we will see these benefits without any additional taxation of our citizens.

“I am excited about what the future holds as we develop a strong, safe, and reliable transportation infrastructure.”

Del. Ray Hollen, R-Wirt, said he sees a lot of good which can come from the bond issue, including improving the state’s infrastructure and creating a number of new jobs which he hopes will spur future economic development.

“I hope that down the road we will have the revenue to pay for these bonds and the road repairs without having to go back and ask for additional help from the taxpayers,” he said. “I hope it does what it says it will do.

“The last thing I want to do is burden the taxpayers.”

Parkersburg Mayor Tom Joyce said he is excited about a number of local projects, including the four-lane extension of W.Va. 14 from Mineral Wells to Pettyville.

With the money from the bonds going to so many road projects, Joyce hopes the state road department will have money available in its maintenance budget to do work on a number of local roads that need work, but are not on the state road project list.

Joyce said Pike Street in Parkersburg was in need of some maintenance work.

“I am very much excited,” he said. “I am optimistic and hopeful they will be able to do a better job taking care of existing roads.”

Wood County Commission President Blair Couch said he was excited by the immediacy of the construction work with a number of projects getting under way soon.

“There will be a lot of projects that will start quickly,” he said.

With the recent announcement of the expansion of Hino in Wood County, industrial expansion in Jackson County and in other parts of the state, Couch hopes having good roads can bring in more development.

“We hope improved roads will help expand economic development further in this area and throughout the state,” he said.

The Wood County Commission is planning to meet Friday morning to canvass the results of the election for the county.


By the Numbers in the Mid-Ohio Valley

The Roads To Prosperity Constitutional Amendment passed statewide. With all precincts counted statewide, the unofficial tally, as of Sunday, has 87,751 in favor of the measure and 32,759 against.

Wood County, 3,689 for and 1,940 against

Wirt County, 295 for and 207 against

Roane County, 1,065 for and 358 against

Ritchie County, 419 for and 364 against

Pleasants County, 353 for and 237 against

Jackson County, 1,509 for and 646 against

Gilmer County, 360 for and 201 against

Doddridge County, 323 for and 265 against

Calhoun County, 273 for and 207 against

Tyler County, 457 for and 223 against

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