MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia voters, including those in Mason County, overwhelmingly agreed Saturday to issue $1.6 billion in state bonds to repair and build roads and bridges.
According to the secretary of state’s office, turnout was low among West Virginia’s 1.2 million registered voters. The Secretary of State’s office reported 87,751 people voted for the amendment and 37,759 against. The nearly 3-to-1 approval came from about 11 percent of eligible voters.
In Mason County, voters passed the amendment with 1,014 votes for, to 691 votes against. It’s estimated less than one percent of registered voters in Mason County turned out to cast ballots.
Gov. Jim Justice’s administration has listed more than 600 planned projects, some in every county, which he said would be done in the next few years. He also predicted the program will create tens of thousands of direct and indirect jobs and was the only means the state had for doing that quickly.
“This is when the work starts. This is when the jobs start,” Justice said in a Tweet on Saturday night. “It’s historic.”
The Republican-controlled Legislature earlier this year approved taxes and fees to support some road repairs and bond repayments, which Justice signed into law.
They raised the variable minimum wholesale gas tax by 3.5 cents a gallon, increased the vehicle sales tax from 5 percent to 6 percent and hiked the motor vehicle registration fee from $30 to $50.
Lawmakers also voted to hold the referendum on bonding.
The West Virginia Republican Party Executive Committee opposed the bonding, saying it would commit the state to 25 years of interest payments. Some opponents noted that the referendum specifically commits the Legislature to provide sufficient taxes to repay the bonds over 25 years, saying that makes future tax hikes likely.
Justice, in the first year of a four-year term, promised that wouldn’t happen while he’s governor. He traveled around the state answering residents’ questions and urging them to vote yes.
On Monday, according to the Associated Press, Justice says now that voters have approved $1.6 billion in state bonding for road and bridge projects, the next step is to ensure West Virginians are hired to do the construction work.
In a Twitter post on Monday, he says they will put a task force in place to ensure as many state residents as possible are put to work.
Michael Virtanen of the Associated Press and Beth Sergent of Ohio Valley Publishing, contributed to this report.