POINT PLEASANT — Gov. Jim Justice made a stop in Point Pleasant on Monday to urge support for a roads referendum.
Voters go to the polls for a special election to decide the issue on Oct. 7. The governor’s plan is to issue bonds to support about $3 billion in projects to repair and rebuild state highways and bridges. Its been dubbed the “roads to prosperity.”
Prior to Justice arriving at the fellowship hall at Trinity UM Church, his chief of staff and former state senator representing Mason County, Mike Hall, spoke.
Hall told those gathered: “This is worth supporting, it will jump start our economy.”
In the “roads to prosperity” proposal, Mason County projects totaled 14, were estimated to cost $16 million and create 324 jobs. When looking at proposals for just Mason, Putnam, Cabell and Jackson counties, combined, there were 84 road projects totaling $562.9 million, creating an estimated 11,258 jobs, according to information from the West Virginia Division of Highways. There are obviously more repair projects set for across the state under the proposal.
When asked by the Point Pleasant Register if he was finding the “roads to prosperity” a tough sell to voters, Justice said: “No, I’m not. In fact, everywhere I go, I ask everyone I meet, ‘do you know anyone that’s going to vote against this, even Crazy Harry down at the 7-Eleven?’ I say, ‘please tell me the truth.’ But I get almost no response to the negative. I really believe that we’re going to pass this by a mandate but you want to make sure, and make sure everybody understands (the proposal).”
Getting the word out and telling his side of the story, is why Justice has been traveling across the state for informational town halls on the subject.
When asked if he’s hearing concerns from residents that their taxes will raise if the issue is passed, Justice said: “Sure, I hear it. It’s just unfortunately a falsehood. It’s not true in any shape, form or fashion but that’s why I need to get out and tell them.”
When asked to address Mason County voters, specifically, when asking for their vote for the bond issue, the governor explained: “I would say, it is our chance to develop Route 2 and Route 35. In a four-county area (Mason, Putnam, Cabell, Jackson), the economic impact of those jobs will be astronomical.”
The governor then talked about potential uses of that money, including putting it back into education.
“Like I said, this is the biggest election that West Virginia has had, there is no downside to a yes vote, but there is every downside to a no vote,” he said.
The governor also talked about toll projects and said there were none that he knew of in the proposals.
“West Virginia is really going somewhere right now,” he told those gathered. “West Virginia is about to blast off like you can’t imagine. Now, I’m an optimist. I’m really thinking we’re going to go someplace. We’ve been 50th forever more and I don’t like it, and it’s the only reason I ran for governor.”
The governor even addressed some Democrats who may still be upset with him for switching his party affiliation. He said he had worked hard to put together a budget that he felt would’ve “helped us all” and felt some Democrats in the House of Delegates helped derail it at the end of the day.
“I don’t understand where people would put a party above the person, or a party above our state, because at the end of the day, when that’s all you’re doing, you’re just playing a game,” Justice said. “You’re just playing with people’s lives and you’re playing with West Virginia. One thing you can count on with me is this, I don’t care if you’re Republican or Democrat, all I want you to be is a West Virginian and I want us to get something done.”
Beth Sergent is editor of Ohio Valley Publishing.