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WV Roads to Prosperity bond referendum passes in a landslide

The Charleston Gazette-Mail

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Voters approved a constitutional referendum Saturday that will allow West Virginia to issue up to $1.6 billion in bonds for highway and bridge construction in the state.

The vote on the Roads to Prosperity Amendment of 2017 passed, earning nearly 73 percent of the vote with every precinct reporting late Saturday night, according to unofficial results from the West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office.

At a news conference after word of the victory circulated, an elated Gov. Jim Justice said the electorate has given its take on the state’s future, loud and clear.

“The voters spoke, did they not? They spoke,” he said before the crowd of labor and industry representatives who supported the effort interrupted him with applause. “They spoke and I am so happy for our state in every single way.”

Of the 1.2 million West Virginians registered to vote, more than 119,000 cast their ballots Saturday.

In Kanawha County, roughly 80 percent of voters supported the referendum. In Putnam County, roughly 82 percent of voters supported the referendum.

“This is our opportunity, people,” Justice said. “Your taxes are not going to go up. And now it all starts. Now the work starts. Now the hiring starts. Now the jobs come. Now the revenue comes. Now here we go. This is an unbelievable boom in the state of West Virginia.”

In the hallways of the Secretary of State’s Office, as it became clear the referendum would pass overwhelmingly, Senate President Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson, expressed his pride for the state and its voters.

“This ensures there will be roads, bridges and a modern, safe infrastructure system and transportation network in West Virginia,” he said. “This is just cause for celebration, and for people to step back and take a moment to step back and say, we did the right thing.”

To repay the bonds, which will be issued in stages annually, the legislature raised the gasoline tax by 3.5 cents per gallon, vehicle sales tax from 5 percent to 6 percent, and increased the motor vehicle registration fee from $30 to $50.

Along with the bonds in the referendum, the state has separately allowed the issuance of GARVEE bonds and Parkways Authority bonds.

Voter turnout dropped off dramatically from the November 2016 elections. More than 713,000 West Virginians voted for a presidential candidate at the time.

Throughout the campaign, Justice and a number of his allies backing the referendum held town halls across the state in an effort to drum up support. The ad hoc gang fought a vocal, largely Republican opposition that claimed if the vote passed, it would lead to tax hikes.

In a rebuke of Justice, not long after he switched his party affiliation and joined the GOP, the state party voted to oppose the road bond.

Justice has also taken heat from state delegates Mike Folk, R-Berkeley, and S. Marshall Wilson, R-Berkeley. Folk handed out opposition fliers at one of the governor’s events.

However, at his conference, Justice played down the naysayers, and said if West Virginia is to move forward, its politicians need to stop fighting among themselves and start working together.

Reach Jake Zuckerman at [email protected], 304-348-4814 or follow

@jake_zuckerman on Twitter.

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