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Lawmakers to Consider Yearlong Study of Road Funds

PlymaleWoefel.jpg
Martin Valent
/
West Virginia Legislative Photography

It’s too late in the session for Senators to approve a bill that would increase dollars committed to the state Road Fund, but members on both sides of the aisle say they are prepared to commit to a study of the issue. 

Sen. Bob Plymale of Wayne County introduced Senate Bill 478 nearly a month ago, which would do just that. The bill proposes increasing revenues for road construction by upping the gasoline and consumer sales taxes and raising Division of Motor Vehicle fees that haven’t been touched since the 1970s.

Plymale told members of the Senate Transportation Committee Tuesday the bill takes some of the unofficial recommendations from Governor Tomblin’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Highways and incorporates them into code.

"We did come out with a comprehensive plan," Plymale, who was a member of the Commission, said, "but what is missing from that is the tolling aspect."

"If we don’t keep the tolls on and allow that money to be spent on new construction, on the King Coal Highway, the Coalfield Expressway, within a 75 mile radius of the turnpike, we’re not going to continue to have the commerce that we need.”

Neighboring Ohio, Plymale said, has leveraged their turnpike to pay for road construction and Virginia and Maryland implemented blanket sales tax increases, dedicating those funds to roads. 

Mike Clouser with the Contractors Association of West Virginia told the committee a study by his organization shows if the state would increase highway spending by $500 million, it would create 10,000 jobs not just in construction, but across a variety of industries in West Virginia.

“These states are realizing that Washington is not going to solve our problems," he said. "That if it's going to be done, its going to be done on the state level.”

Transportation Chair Sen. Chris Walters said it’s too late in the session for both chambers to approve Plymale’s bill, but he’s working to craft a resolution to commit the Legislature to study road funding for a year. 

The resolution would have to be considered and approved by a simple majority voted of both chambers by the final day of session Saturday.


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