I thought the road bond amendment would pass, but frankly I began to waiver last week. The calls, texts and emails to Talkline were running overwhelmingly against it. The anger toward Governor Jim Justice and the distrust of state government to spend money efficiently were apparent.
Additionally, I started to wonder whether the “drain the swamp” mentality that gave Donald Trump an overwhelming victory in West Virginia and swept him into office would also fuel resentment of a big government road building program.
But it did not. Perhaps the opposition seemed larger than it was because it was more vocal, possibly even more motivated than supporters. However, the numbers show their bite was not as big as their bark. Just 27 percent of those who voted opposed the bond.
The Governor and his team deserve credit for passage. This was Justice’s signature program and he worked it—hard. He held town hall meetings nearly every day leading up to the election, including five in one day in the Eastern Panhandle.
Justice served as the motivational speaker for the bond. Meanwhile, state Transportation Secretary and Division of Highways Commissioner Tom Smith was the numbers guy. He crisscrossed the state presenting fact-based arguments for the bond, winning converts with logical arguments.
Business and labor organizations also got behind the amendment, along with many local governments, trade groups and media outlets. Ultimately the bond enjoyed a broad base of support that was enough to carry the day.
The election tapped into West Virginians’ frustration with the condition of our roads and bridges. They are bad and getting worse by the month. It became increasingly evident that the state could not keep up with the construction and repair needs without a significant road building program.
That frustration led to action. West Virginians who are tired of bad roads and weary of complaining about it were ready to “do something!” Their votes expressed support for the decision by the Legislature and the Governor to raise gas taxes, DMV fees and the sales tax on vehicles as long as the money is going to the roads.
Justice was euphoric during his press conference Monday morning and again during an appearance on Talkline. “Saturday night West Virginia, maybe for the first time in its existence, tasted winning, and it tastes good,” he said.
As usual, the Governor is given to hyperbole. West Virginia has had victories before, but he’s right that the outcome brings some optimism to the state. #FTDR (Fix the Damn Roads) is no longer the catch phrase of a pipe dream; it’s a realistic and achievable goal for the state and our people.