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‘Roads to Prosperity’ is Devil We Know

By Staff | Sep 29, 2017

During a special voting session on Saturday, Oct. 7, state residents will have the opportunity to vote on Gov. Jim Justice’s plan to issue bonds for roughly $3 billion in projects to repair and rebuild state roadways.

Senate Joint Resolution 6, also known as the “Roads to Prosperity Amendment of 2017,” has come under scrutiny from some, while being praised highly by others. The amendment will authorize the State Legislature to issue and sell bonds, which will not exceed $1.6 billion over a four-year period of time. The funds generated from these bonds will then go to match federal funding for highway construction throughout the state, as well as providing highway and secondary road construction or improvements in all 55 counties.

What’s not to love, right?

Well, according to those wishing this resolution to fall flat, tax increases are of major concern. The State of West Virginia has seen massive tax increases – in this year alone – on various aspects of motor vehicle usage and ownership. In July, vehicle registration fees shot up from $30 to $50, a nearly 67 percent increase. Yet, those fees are proving to not be enough to repair and maintain West Virginia’s roadways.

The issue is, however, that the $1.6 billion raised in selling bonds will have to be paid back at some point – with interest. The question then becomes, where will those funds come from?

Tax increases, of course.

While the funds generated thus far from the increases in July have helped begin the work of road repair, what is next? The unfortunate nature of roadways is their near constant need of repair. And while the population of the Eastern Panhandle continues to increase, there will be more and more need for rebuilding and repair.

Take, for example, the new U.S. 11/W.Va. 51 bypass underway in Inwood. The project was first proposed in 2013, yet didn’t come to conception until December 2016. Even then, work wasn’t in full swing until this summer. And once that new roadway is completed, there will be further adjustment needed for additional traffic flow. It is the nature of the beast. And as costs on labor, production and materials increase, so will our taxes.

It seems as if the residents of West Virginia may be in a no-win situation. If the amendment fails, the additional $1.6 billion will have to come from somewhere – undoubtedly in the form of additional taxes. However, if the amendment passes, the $1.6 billion in bonds will have to eventually be paid back – with interest. And, you guessed it, those funds will come from additional or increased taxes.

The issue then becomes, which devil do you pay first? Taxes now, or taxes later?

It will be up to the voters of West Virginia to make that decision on Oct. 7. The simplest solution, go with the devil you know.