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Can W.Va. Overcome Political Pressures to Fund Roads?

NelsonChamber.jpg
Perry Bennett
/
West Virginia Legislative Photography
House Finance Chair Eric Nelson during a meeting of the Joint Committee Monday.

"As I listen to people out in my area, they are very interested in us doing something and they're not naive enough to think you can do it without money." - Sen. Finance Chair Mike Hall.

Republican Senate Finance Chair Mike Hall has been outspoken on the issue of road funding since his party took over the legislature in January.

Weeks, if not days, into the session Hall began pushing the idea of a road bond- leveraging the state turnpike in southern West Virginia to bond out more than a billion dollars of new road construction.

Hall’s attitude, it hasn’t changed much.

"We need to go ahead and take action this session," he said after a meeting of the Joint Committee on Finance Monday. 

Hall is backing a road bond using the state's turnpike in southern West Virginia as leverage. His plan would keep the tolls, which are set to expire in 2019, on the road and bond that future income at $1  billion to put toward new road construction. 

Hall's counterpart in the House of Delegates, Eric Nelson, is still open to considering other options like implementing TIFs, or tax increment financing districts. 

When a new road is built, the property taxes in that area go up. A TIF captures those additional property taxes and uses them to pay for the developed infrastructure in the area. 

"You'll see us push that this time," Nelson said.

Both funding sources have their issues. Counties and municipalities lose out on the extra property tax revenue under TIFs and continued tolls on the turnpike further alienates those in southern West Virginia who feel they bare the burden of the fees.

So, Hall said, it will come down to the political willingness of both the Legislature and the governor, and he's asking for that financial support in an election year. 

“I know that there are people around here that say no new taxes ever," he said. "Even the governor campaigned on that if you remember, but in this case, we could do a better job growing our state.”

Hall believed you can garner public support if you plan road projects for all areas of the state, "so everyone feels like a winner," he said.

Both Hall and Nelson agreed there will be no special session this fall to deal with the state's road funding issues and will wait to deal with the issue during the 2016 legislative session. 


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