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Road Bond Editorial: The Charleston Gazette-Mail says vote ‘Yes’

Road Bond Editorial: The Charleston Gazette-Mail says vote ‘Yes’

From The Charleston Gazette-Mail, Daily Mail editorial:

Vote for the road bond and demand government accountability

It seems nearly all the organizations that employ West Virginians and those trying to bring more jobs to the state have one thing in common regarding the Oct. 7 election for the “Roads to Prosperity” amendment.

They want West Virginia voters to vote ‘Yes’ to fund a $1.6 billion bond issue to build new roads across the mountains and forests and allow more existing road money to be spent on repair and replacement.

“Just think, with road construction and road maintenance, workers will be out in full force, roads will be improved and the economic benefit of $1.6 billion dollars of spending will be enormous and transformative,” wrote Delegate Charlotte Lane, R-Kanawha, to the Daily Mail Opinion page.

“Good roads attract new businesses, more tourism and a better quality of day-to-day travel for all of us.”

Wrote Chris Hamilton, in his role as chairman of the Business and Industry Council: “It’s time to fix West Virginia’s potholes, uneven pavement, aging bridges and unfinished sections of road. Tens of thousands of jobs will be created through this initiative; growing our state’s economy and benefiting your family and community.”

Hamilton also noted that the Legislature in the 2017 session approved the revenue stream for the road bonds.

“We have the power to fix our roads, make our highways safer, put people to work and grow West Virginia’s economy with the passage of this referendum.”

Wrote Rebecca McPhail, president of the West Virginia Manufacturers Association: “West Virginia ranks near the bottom — 46th — for its percentage of structurally deficient bridges. Infrastructure improvements must be made now so we can maintain and grow the manufacturing sector.

“We have a precious opportunity in West Virginia to take existing revenues and generate the funds necessary to transform our roads and bridges, and thereby transform our state’s economy.”

Said Delegate Eric Nelson, R-Kanawha and House Finance Committee chairman: “The question before voters is whether we use that $130 million already approved to fund the bonds or, instead, delay investment over time.”

“We’ve already seen how the pay-as-you-go system has not kept pace with inflation and needs. Total annual dollars have remained flat for the last 10 years at $1.2 billion.

“That’s why it’s taken so long to get projects like the U.S. 35 expansion moving, or why we’ve not expanded Jefferson Road in South Charleston or moved to complete Corridor H and the King Coal highways, to name a few large-dollar projects. If we approve the $1.6 billion bond, we can get to work immediately.”

Wrote Daily Mail Opinion Columnist Tom Crouser. “[The West Virginia Republican Party executive committee] passed a resolution (in August) to oppose issuing the bonds. They apparently had not heard the argument for good debt.

“Good debt is an investment that will grow in value or generate long-term income … Bad debt is debt used to buy things that quickly lose value and/or don’t generate long-term income. Avoiding … the increased cost of a road is income as it avoids future expenses.”

As stated, there are plenty of good reasons to support the road bond and start construction now, rather than dribble smaller projects out over the next 25 years.

Still, some voters rightly question the credibility of Gov. Jim Justice and the ability of his administration to manage several large road construction projects in a short time frame. Some also bring up corruption issues and kickback schemes that have plagued the Division of Highways in recent years, problems that preceded Justice, but that he must make sure get fixed.

And some wonder if a big, short-term push will bring more out-of-state construction firms that don’t hire enough West Virginia workers — firms and jobs that will leave after the construction frenzy is completed in five years while taxpayers pay the debt for another 20 years.

And some are cautiously skeptical that no taxes will be raised to help with expenses during the 25-year term of the bonds.

Yet it appears the pros of new roads, better roads, more jobs and more opportunity outweigh the cons. Still, we urge everyone — the state media, legislators and voters — to demand transparency and accountability from the Justice administration and future administrations throughout the process.

As Tom Crouser wrote, the road bond is good debt. The roads will still be there in 20 years and 40 years, and they’ll help West Virginia grow its economy sooner rather than later.

Early voting continues through Oct. 4. Election Day is Saturday, Oct. 7.
Vote ‘Yes.’

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