CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The legislature approved a bill Monday that will add $54 million in secondary road repairs in the new fiscal year. The additional money will come from the current fiscal year’s budget and Gov. Jim Justice’s decision to once again adjust revenue estimates for the current budget year.
State Revenue Secretary Dave Hardy broke down the new numbers Monday on MetroNews “Talkline.” The administration will take $30 million in unappropriated funds in the current state budget and another $42 million from the governor’s latest revision of revenue estimates. Hardy said the additional $54 million for secondary road work would come out of that $72 million pool of money.
“The governor emphasized he wants dollars put into the secondary roads, the guardrails, the culverts, the ditches and then, of course, the new asphalt. So that’s where the emphasis is right now,” Hardy said.
The bill, SB 1016, passed the Senate Monday afternoon. Senator Charles Clements, R-Wetzel, said as much money as possible should be funneled to the DOH to take care of secondary road issues.
“This is an immediate need. I know it’s recurring but we need to get it up to a level where we can maintain those roads,” Clements said.
There was an extended discussion of the bill in the House Finance Committee before the House version of the bill cleared the committee. Vice-Chairman Vernon Criss, R-Wood, wanted some guarantees from state Transportation Secretary Byrd White that there would be no fraud.
“Are all the county supervisors in on this? Do they believe in what we’re trying to do here?” Criss asked.
“Yes,” Byrd said. “If they’re not on board they’re going to get on board.”
The House passed the Senate’s version of the bill at just before 7 p.m. Monday.
Hardy said $50 million of the new money would go directly into the highways maintenance account. He said the remaining $4 million would go toward equipment purchases.
The state had a record-setting month for revenue collections in April at $605 million. The state is now $77 million above estimates 10 months into the fiscal year and that’s after Justice adjusted revenue estimates upward by $146 million in January. Hardy said without that adjustment collections would be about $245 million above estimates for the fiscal year.
The emphasis on secondary road work picked up in early March when Gov. Jim Justice replaced state Transportation Secretary Tom Smith with White and named Jimmy Wriston as Division of Highways commissioner.
Since then, according to Wriston, 43,000 tons of asphalt used in patching, dozens of banks and shoulders stabilized and more than 3,000 road miles where ditching and blading has taken place.
“We’ve got a long way to go. We have to be very realistic and understand that we have years to catch up on but we’re making progress. We’ve got the right mind set,” Wriston said on MetroNews “Talkline” last week.
Contractors Association of West Virginia President Mike Clowser said a lot maintenance work thus far as been done by the DOH itself. He said members of his organization are ready to get started with paving projects. He said he hopes that comes soon.
“If we can get these projects moving in the next two to four weeks–our members are ready to go to work,” Clowser said Monday on “Talkline.”