PRINCETON, W.Va. – The state Republican Party Executive Committee overwhelmingly opposes a $3 billion road bond package scheduled to go before West Virginia voters in six weeks.
All but one of about 100 party leaders at a meeting Saturday voted to reject the bond, Party Chairman Conrad Lucas said.
In a special election set for Saturday, Oct. 7, West Virginians will decide whether the state should sell bonds to finance the large-scale road projects. Those bonds would be paid off with fees and tax increases approved earlier this year by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Jim Justice.
Justice switched his party affiliation from Democrat to Republican in early August, saying he believes he can get more done.
Lucas said no one at the Republican committee meeting spoke in favor of the bond, even though it originally was supported by the Republican-majority legislature. Justice, who jumped to the GOP after being elected as a Democrat, claims the massive roads project could create 40,000 jobs and is needed desperately to re-energize the state’s economy.
“If it fails, this state is history. It’s gone, that’s all there is to it,” Justice said in June while scheduling the special election.
Yet the bond could generate division between Republican lawmakers and a constituency that favors low taxes, small government and fiscal responsibility.
“The road bond is against those principles,” Lucas said.
The GOP committee issued a resolution criticizing the bond for potentially subjecting the state to 25 years’ worth of interest payments.
The legislature has already increased DMV fees, raised the wholesale tax on gasoline and increased the tax on vehicle purchases to raise another $130 million annually for road work.
The Justice administration put out a statement Tuesday night saying the road bond shouldn’t be a partisan issue and disputing the position that it would necessitate a tax increase.
“This is a not a Democrat, Republican or Independent issue. It’s about jobs, safety, your roads and bridges, and hope for our state. The overwhelming majority of our elected leaders, along with myself, are in favor of the Road Bond Referendum and providing our citizens with safe roads and bridges,” Justice stated.
In bold print, the statement continued: “ATTENTION: All West Virginians—The Road Bond Referendum is not going to raise your taxes at all—ZERO. What we are really voting for on Oct. 7 is whether or not we want to create tens of thousands of good paying jobs and launch our state into an economic recovery, and put us on a pathway to prosperity, that will be remembered forevermore.
“The funding mechanisms to support this bonding have already been put in place by the Legislature.”