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Road trip for several lawmakers

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The Minority Whip in the state House of Delegates says he thinks there are lessons West Virginia could learn from Virginia when it comes to highway innovations designed to generate money for road construction and maintenance.

On Wednesday, Del. Daryl Cowles (R-Morgan), Del. Paul Espinosa (R-Jefferson) and Del. Gary Howell (R-Mineral) will travel to Richmond, Va. to meet with Virginia House Speaker William Howell, also a Republican, to talk about the cost saving measures Virginia is implementing.

“We’re looking for some ideas, to see how things are working down there, see if we can find some innovation and some cost savings that we could apply up here in West Virginia,” said Cowles, the Minority Chairman for the House Committee on Roads and Transportation.

Cowles said the trip is a response to the report from the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Highways which, after a year of study, recommended continued tolls on the West Virginia Turnpike and increased fees through the Division of Highways to pay for future road needs.

As lawmakers prepare to take up some of those recommendations, he said there are some ideas the Blue Ribbon Commission did not consider.

“We can’t keep going back to the taxpayer every time we want to spend money say say, ‘We need more from working West Virginia families and small businesses or we can’t do it.’  It’s just not true,” said Cowles.  “We need to find a way to prioritize state spending.”

He said the trip to Virginia could give lawmakers new ideas about where to start with that since, in his view, Virginia sets roads as a priority.  “We can make road funding a priority within our budget and we need to start doing that,” said Cowles, a guest on Monday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”

He said the lawmakers will pay for the costs of the “fact finding mission” themselves.

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