MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Sen. Randy Smith, R-Tucker, isn’t the only one “peeved” by some of the road-related vetoes signed by Gov. Jim Justice this week.
Dels. John Williams and Evan Hansen, both Democrats from Monongalia County, expressed shock and disappointment that road-related bills with bi-partisan support joined “Randy’s Dream” on the scrap heap.
H.B. 3044 — designed to update the DOH funding formula — saw its fate sealed Wednesday. There was also language in the bills vetoed relating to the introduction of private contracters or vendors who could potentially complete unfinished road work.
“The three most talked about, most prevalent bills that would deal with the fixing of our roads — he vetoed,” Williams said. “That is extremely disappointing.”
“These were good bills that had some long-term solutions in them,” Hansen said. “I just can’t understand why he’s not taking the steps that are necessary to solve this problem.”
Hansen said, as a Democrat, S.B. 522 was “outside of his comfort zone,” but that he supported the measure due to the dire conditions of secondary roads in his district.
“I stepped out of my comfort zone as a Democrat who supports state workers to allow some of that work to be done by private contractors,” he said. “Those of us who recognize the emergency, need to be a little bit flexible in our views and do whatever it takes to get this work done.”
Williams was the lead sponsor on H.B. 3044, the latest version of a bill he had either sponsored or co-sponsored in multiple sessions. The updated DOH funding formula would be codified into law and offer increased dollars to counties with increased vehicle traffic.
“We had ideas about addressing the problems with our roads and then after we end the session, then the executive wants to then start addressing roads without any of our input,” Williams said. “He certainly illustrated that when he vetoed these three bills (Wednesday).”
Smith, notably furious as reported Wednesday, stressed that Gov. Justice was ignoring the people’s representatives.
“Power should be in the hands of the people — not the executive branch,” he said Thursday on MetroNews “Talkline” with Hoppy Kercheval. “Jim Justice isn’t the king of the state. He’s a servant for the people, just like the rest of us elected legislators are.”
House Speaker Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay, said he supported and would still support “Randy’s Dream,” but offered to take a “wait and see approach” on how the Governor handles this road situation — noting that the Governor had clearly made roads a “priority.”
“I am willing to wait and see what the Governor’s overall strategy is going to be for how we deal with infrastructure in our state,” Hanshaw, also a guest on “Talkline,” said Thursday.
He added: “I supported the program. I voted for (Randy’s Dream). I’d vote for it again. I think there is something to be said for putting as many opportunities as we can in place to fund infrastructure in our state.”
Hanshaw said he would have preferred a dialogue with the Governor’s office, but said lines of communication are always open at the Capitol.
Smith, meanwhile, refusing to rule out a run for Governor in 2020 and summarily challenging Justice in a primary, derided the recency of Justice’s interest in secondary roadways.
“There’s no excuse,” Smith said. “He can come up with whatever excuse he wants to, there is absolutely no excuse why what he’s doing now wasn’t done a year ago, two years ago, or three years ago.”