Since interim sessions have begun, and we’re approaching the October 7 vote to possibly approve a $1.6 billion road bond, I feel it’s a good time for a legislative update.
First, we need to know the bond vote is not a vote to raise taxes. The revenue was approved in this years’ session through an increase in annual DMV fees, an increase of 3.5 cents per gallon on wholesale gas, and increasing the sales tax on the purchase of vehicles from 5 percent to 6 percent like all other taxable goods. The revenue from these items will generate approximately $ 130 million annually, and is required by our state constitution to be used for highways, it cannot be taken away.
Second, the state currently has approximately $700 million annually for contracted highway spending. $250 million is generated in the state, and $450 million comes from the federal government. The Governor’s Road plan as I understand it, is to dedicate $50 million each year from the federal portion to secure a GARVEE bond (Grant Application Revenue Vehicle) totaling $500 million for immediate use on our state roads. Furthermore the recent reauthorization of the Turnpike Authority will allow up to $500 million in additional bonds to be sold and paid back with tolls not taxes. These two items combined will generate $1 billion to be used for highway projects.
The decision before us on October 7 will be whether or not to allow the governor to dedicate the $130 million annual revenue derived from the increased DMV fees, gas tax, and vehicle sales tax to pay for $1.6 billion of immediate work to our roads and bridges, or to spend the money as the state receives it in $130 million blocks each year. Passage of the road bond would essentially mean $3.3 billion in immediate spending, comprised of $700 million of routine spending, $1 billion from GARVEE and toll bonds, and $1.6 billion from the road bond.
With or without the passage of the bond, there will be a considerable amount of highway work in the near future. To get the best economic impact for our state, I feel the administration should do everything in its power to ensure as many of these jobs as possible go to West Virginia workers and contractors. Since we’re asking our taxpayers to fund the work, it makes sense for these citizens to have every opportunity to work on the projects and keep the wages in our state’s economy.
I’ve met with members of the administration to ask that certain measures be taken to ensure the best opportunity for West Virginia’s workers and construction contractors. Requirements for local apprentices/trainees, better enforcement of the West Virginia Jobs Act, equal enforcement of tax laws on out-of-state companies, etc. would certainly help, but as of now, there have been no commitments from the administration.
I truly believe that the economic impact to our state will be so much greater if we can keep the wages generated from these jobs within our own workforce, the business opportunities for as many local companies as possible, and the associated taxes within our state economy. Given some of these commitments from the governor’s administration, I could fully support the bond issue.
As always, feel free to contact me with any issues or concerns at 304 593-5010, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I appreciate your trust and support.
Delegate Scott Brewer
Scott Brewer (D-Letart) represents the 13th District in the West Virginia House of Delegates.