CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Early voting begins in less than three weeks for West Virginia’s Oct. 7 Special Election on the proposed Roads to Prosperity Constitutional Amendment which would allow state officials to borrow $1.6 billion for road construction in the Mountain State.
If Election Day was tomorrow, Delegate Kayla Kessinger (R-Fayette, 32) would be voting “no.”
“We don’t know what the future holds,” she said. “We already can’t maintain the roads that we have with our existing funds, so how are we going to build new roads, build new infrastructure and maintain them in the long-term?”
Kessinger was one of the 11 House members who cast votes against the Roads to Prosperity Amendment during the 2017 Regular Legislative Session after a unanimous vote for the measure in the West Virginia Senate.
With the election in sight, Kessinger told MetroNews she had not changed in her opposition largely because her concerns about the potential for additional tax increases after passage had not been adequately addressed.
“Simply saying that we’re not going to have tax increases is not a good enough commitment to me,” she said. “I need to know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that we are not going to continue raising taxes down the road on some of the poorest people in the country.”
A self-described “fiscal conservative,” Kessinger, the assistant House majority whip, also questioned road spending methods in West Virginia up to now.
“I’m not sure that the state has spent that money wisely in the past and I want to be convinced that we are going to be responsible with what we already have before we add additional responsibility to different agencies.”
The bond proposal is one of Governor Jim Justice’s priorities.
“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,” Justice has said.
Funding mechanisms to pay off the bonds over two decades, he’s argued, are already in place through tax and fee increases the Legislature approved earlier this year.
Those hikes to DMV fees and vehicle purchase sales taxes along with a recalculation of the wholesale tax on gasoline in West Virginia took effect in July.
The West Virginia Business and Industry Council is one of the many organizations publicly endorsing the proposal.
“Our members realize the importance of good roads and safe bridges to West Virginia’s economy and we hope the voters recognize this is a rare opportunity to improve our infrastructure with existing revenues,” said Chris Hamilton, BIC chair.
He called support for the proposal a “no brainer.”
“Passage of this bond is going to result in better roads and more jobs,” Hamilton said during a recent appearance on MetroNews “Talkline.”
“We do have a chance and it’s an excellent opportunity to fix our roads, fix our bridges and there’s not a West Virginian who doesn’t think that’s necessary or needed at this point in time.”
The full list of projects, new construction projects, that could benefit from bond funding is posted HERE.
Voter turnout may be an issue in the Oct. 7 special election.
As of last week, Kessinger said she had not received one call from a constituent about the road bond proposal. The concerns she does hear regularly, she told MetroNews, are complaints about existing potholes and other road maintenance issues.
Those problems “aren’t going to be the priority through the passage of this bond,” she said.
Early voting begins on Sept. 22 and runs through Oct. 4.
The deadline to register to vote in the Special Election is Sept. 18.