CHARLESTON, W.Va. — “The roads are everything” in the view of Governor Jim Justice and the West Virginia Legislature’s taking steps to fund construction and maintenance of the Mountain State’s roads with passage of a two road bills.
On Friday, Day 20 of a Special Session, the Legislature finalized work on SB 1006, which increases funding for the State Road Fund, and SB 1003, which expands the tolling capacity of the West Virginia Parkways Authority, operator of the West Virginia Turnpike.
What happens next with those bills is up to Governor Justice, a vocal advocate.
“The 800 pound gorilla in the room is the roads. That’s it, that drives jobs to us,” he said during his radio town hall on Friday’s MetroNews “Talkline” with Hoppy Kercheval.
His appearance came prior to final passage of the bills but, at the time, he was optimistic about their chances.
“We’re going to be able to not only do the new roads and create tens of thousands of jobs, but we’re going to have money — significant money — to spin back around and be able to help clean up potholes and fix our existing roads to where we don’t tear our vehicles all to pieces going to the convenience store.”
In general, SB 1006 sets a higher floor on the fluctuating tax based on the wholesale price of gasoline, increases DMV fees — like the vehicle registration fee which was upped to $40 — and raises the privilege tax on vehicle purchases from five percent to six percent.
The bill could generate an additional $100 million annually for road construction and maintenance, according to legislative estimates.
As reported in the House of Delegates, SB 1003 allows for tolling on new roads, new bridges or existing roads that are widened.
The two bills are part of a package to fund more than $2 billion in road construction bonds.
Such bonding requires voter approval. During the 2017 Regular Legislative Session, the Legislature authorized Justice to call a statewide bond election, though no date had been set as of Saturday.
Justice said he intended to choose an election date “as soon as possible.”
More road money, he argued, is good for West Virginia’s overall economy.
“We’ve got $1.2 billion of road work ready to go right now, right this minute. All you’ve got to do is just pull the trigger and let it go,” Governor Justice said.
“As soon as it goes, there’s going to be thousands and thousands of jobs and those people are going to be spending money. There’s going to be income tax, there’s going to be payroll tax, there’s going to be everything.”
Lawmakers reconvene at the State Capitol on Monday, June 26 ahead of the start of the 2018 Fiscal Year on July 1.