‘Roads to Prosperity’
Gov. Justice discusses bond vote at Elkins town hall meeting
ELKINS — More than 50 area residents and elected officials gathered Monday for a town hall meeting where Gov. Jim Justice spoke regarding the upcoming “Roads to Prosperity” bond referendum.
If approved by state voters Oct. 7, the referendum would give the West Virginia Legislature authority to issue $1.6 billion in bonds over the next four years, allowing for major bridge work, highway improvements and construction throughout the Mountain State.
Justice spoke at the West Virginia Wood Technology Institute and stressed that voting for the bond would not increase taxes to state residents.
“You are not voting on a tax increase. Whoever is telling you that — that’s just bogus. That is not true in any way, shape, form or fashion,” Justice said. “You’re voting on just this, all the funding buckets are in place. You see, there’s four buckets. There is the three-and-a-half cent (tax) on gas in one bucket, privilege taxes in another bucket, the turnpike tolls in another bucket and the (Division of Motor Vehicles) fee in another bucket. That’s done. That is what’s going to pay the bond off.”
Later in the meeting, he quipped that individuals should not listen to anyone who says the bond will lead to a tax increase.
“This is everything to us, it’s every single thing there is to us. It’s not taking one penny more out of anybody’s pocket,” Justice said. “If anybody says that to you and you are at the gas station, get a Little Debbie (snack cake) and hit them with it. It’s just wrong. It’s just plain wrong.”
He explained the four buckets are taxes and fees that are already in place and taxpayers already pay. He added he believes the bonds will be paid off quickly because as roads get built and repaired, the state population will increase.
“These four buckets are going to pay the money back way faster than what we project because we are going to increase the population in this state. That’s all there is to it,” he said. “There is no place in this for a tax increase, no place, no place whatsoever.”
Justice said putting money into the bond now would pay dividends later by increasing jobs and revenue within the state.
“The idea is basically this, and nobody’s ever thought of this but this is the idea. The idea is to create some vehicle that has enough money and then, here’s the secret part, put it together into a financial instrument of bond that will create gigantic money today,” he said. “When the gigantic money is created today, it lets every road job in (to) the state today. Know what this does, it creates massive amounts of instantaneous jobs. It creates massive amounts of revenue coming into our state.”
Justice implied that he believes if the bond does not pass, it could cause closures and losses of integral community services.
“This is our chance. This is our opportunity and if we walk away from this, let me tell you what you are going to have. The only money, the only dollars that went into the budget this year was a revenue projected increase from me and it was based on the roads. That’s the only monies that went in …,” Justice said. “If you don’t have that, I would say ‘buckle up.’ You’re going to lose more schools, you are going to lose (Division of Health and Human Resources), you are going to lose Medicaid, you are going to lose every place you can imagine because there is no way to turn.”
Justice broke down the amount of money each county in north central West Virginia would receive from the bond and how many roadway projects per county would be assisted by the funds.
Randolph County would receive $21.2 million to assist with 24 projects. Tucker County would receive $98.9 million to assist with 12 projects. Upshur County would receive $10.3 million to assist with 22 projects. Pocahontas County would receive $16 million to assist on 14 projects. Pendleton County would receive $35 million on 13 projects. Barbour County would receive $9.2 million on 14 projects.
“The reason for the giant jump of $98 million (in Tucker County) is Corridor H,” Justice said. “In Tucker County it’s 1,978 jobs.”
The Randolph County Development Authority passed a resolution last week in support of the bond referendum, highlighting a $90 million undertaking to expand Corridor H in Tucker County as one of the main reasons of offering support for the referendum.
Also present at the meeting was Tom Smith, secretary of transportation for the West Virginia Division of Transportation. He was appointed to the position by Justice on Jan. 14.
During the Nov. 7 special election, state voters will have the opportunity to vote for or against passing a referendum for a constitutional amendment to authorize the sale of road bonds as part of the “Roads to Prosperity” initiative.
The special election will include an early-voting period in the two weeks leading up to the referendum, and it will occur in all 55 counties.