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Help counties that help themselves

By Staff | Apr 4, 2017

State officials eager to improve highways and other infrastructure throughout West Virginia should remember that every little bit helps. There is a way counties can augment state and federal funding for such work.

In some areas where local economies have gotten shots in the arm from development such as that in the oil and natural gas industries, county governments may have funds available that are not needed for day-to-day expenses. Under current state law, their ability to use that money for infrastructure improvements is limited severely,

Marshall County Commissioner Bob Miller has been promoting legislation that could allow such counties to do more. They could be partners with state and local government on projects such as extending Interestate 68 from its current western terminus at Morgantown.

Bringing I-68 west to the Ohio River, through Marshall County, could open up all sorts of potential for economic growth.

To be implemented, Miller’s idea would require action by the Legislature and voter approval of an amendment to the state constitution. A bill and a resolution to those ends have been introduced in the state Senate.

But for weeks, the measures have languished in the Senate Finance Committee. If that continues much longer, the proposal will be dead for the current legislative session.

That happened last year, when the crush of business during legislators’ last few weeks in session effectively killed the proposal.

It should not be permitted to happen again this year. Legislators should be delighted at the possibility of a few million dollars to jump-start infrastructure projects that cannot be undertaken because the state lacks the money. Counties that, in effect, want to help themselves should not be denied the opportunity to do so.