CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Senator Randy Smith is peeved about Gov. Jim Justice vetoing “Randy’s Dream,” a bill pushing for more resources and transparency for West Virginia road repair.
In a telephone interview while he was pulled off along the highway Wednesday evening, Smith actually used stronger language than peeved.
“I’d looked for it to be vetoed because Jim wasn’t going to be one-upped by anybody,” said Smith, R-Tucker.
The bill was among the most prominent to be vetoed by Justice during a flurry of bill activity on Wednesday, the governor’s final day to take action on legislation that passed at the end of the legislative session.
Justice also vetoed House Bill 3044, a similar roads bill sponsored by a bipartisan group of delegates from north central West Virginia.
One of those delegates, House Majority Leader Amy Summers, expressed disappointment with a more subtle statement.
“The Legislature will continue to address the infrastructure needs in our state whether the governor supports our bills or not,” said Summers, R-Taylor.
Senate Bill 522, which Smith pushed throughout the legislative session, would have established a new Special Road Repair Fund. By the time it was through several changes, it allowed — but didn’t make — the Department of Highways to put up to $80 million a year into the fund.
The bill also directed the state Auditor to supply on its wvcheckbook.gov state spending transparency website financial information about DOH contracted projects in all 55 counties. That’s the part that Smith says was important.
“It’s just hard for me to believe it was vetoed even without the funding,” he said. “The only thing that was left was the accountability and the transparency.
“The way I interpreted it was, he does not want any transparency or he does not want any checks and balances. He doesn’t want any accountability to the executive branch to make sure the money is being spent right.”
The governor’s letter attached to the veto gave a different point of view. Justice characterized the bill as legislative intrusion into the executive branch.
“The purpose of the bill, while well-intentioned, is problematic because it represents a legislative encroachment into executive functions,” the governor’s letter stated.
“The bill would have the county supervisor, with consultation of the county commission and the legislators representing the county to compile a list of the secondary roads projects in the county and prioritize those projects.”
Smith said that component gave local people some say in what roads should be fixed.
In the past couple of weeks, Justice has vocally supported efforts to improve West Virginia’s roads. Last week in Charleston, he gathered district engineers and county supervisors from all 55 counties. In a 15-minute speech, he asked them to provide lists of roads that need attention, along with priorities and the necessary staffing and equipment.
Smith said there’s not enough substance to those appearances.
“It’s all about a dog and pony show for him and publicity,” he said. “That’s the only thing the governor is worried about is publicity.”
Smith said he’ll keep fighting.
“It’s not over with yet,” he said. “We had a chance to address something and fix these roads, and he just showed the state this evening what he thought about correcting wrongs. He had a chance to make the wrongs right and he decided not to.
“I’m going to continue to press this issue until this issue’s solved. With or without Jim Justice.”