Gov. Justice pushes for road bond approval

Gov. Justice pushes for road bond approval”

The vote is asking for approval of the sale of $1.6 billion in bonds over four years for road improvement projects across the state, including road fix, new road construction and finishing projects at various points in their development.

Justice began his comments by saying the October 7 election "is the single biggest vote West Virginia will make in the history of the state".

Justice said he has concluded the $2.4 billion road construction plan, which would also include revenue from the sale of state Parkways Authority and GARVEE bonds, which do not require public approval, is the only viable way to jumpstart the state economy, saying it will instantaneously create "tens and tens of thousands of jobs".

However, he said those workers will be paying payroll taxes, sales taxes and income taxes while they are in the state, and said it creates the opportunity for West Virginians who had to leave the state to find work to come back. Justice said during a conference call with reporters and editors from 35 newspapers around the state, hosted by the West Virginia Press Association.

"We have to have something that can bring in immediate jobs", Justice said. "There is no additional tax increases at all".

"If things go well, we will not need any more tolling", he said. But I would not want us to commit to that and say never, never.

This year the West Virginia Legislature passed legislation providing state residents with an option to pay an $8 annual flat toll fee in the state and be able to travel on any state highway. "That's all there is to it", Justice said, adding, "The reality is some of those jobs are going to be filled with out-of-state workers".

"It does so much for West Virginia it's off the charts", he said.

Transportation Secretary Tom Price was also on the call and said the state has already seen an increased level of road work, but that can only go so far without more money.

"I can't tell you enough how important this is", he said of the bond issue.

"If we pass this, we would have to sell a bond and someone has to buy it on the other end", Justice said. "The money to finish Corridor H is right at our fingertips., and it will have the biggest economic impact on our state than any highway we have".

Both Price and Justice said the Coalfield Expressway and King Coal Highway are crucial for the state and will be part of the work financed with the bond funding.

Other money may come in if the federal infrastructure plan pushed by Pres. Donald Trump goes through. However, the "lion's share" of the jobs would be expected to be awarded in the spring, if the referendum passes, Justice said.

Other state officials were on the call and said the roads package helps in many areas, from schools to tourism.

Residents who intend to vote in the October 7 bond referendum but are not registered have until September 18 to register.

Dates pertinent to the special election include the September 18 deadline for voter registration, September 22 to October 4 as the early voting period, and October 2 as the last day for voting absentee. The deadline for absentee ballot applications is October 6.

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