Idea could be economic boon

Even when clear economic development benefits would result from infrastructure improvements, it has become exceedingly difficult for West Virginia state government to come up with the money for them. We cannot seem to even patch the potholes we have, much less build new roads in which more of them may occur.

But if the state could find partners to share some of the cost, such improvements might be an entirely different story. There is a possibility for that to happen.

It is the brainchild of Marshall County Commissioner Bob Miller. In effect, he wants state law and the West Virginia Constitution to be amended to permit counties to help fund economic development work such as new roads.

Miller has noted that, in large measure because of the gas drilling boom, some counties have more revenue than they need for day-to-day government operations. That money could be put to use in projects such as extending Interstate 68 west to the Ohio River from its current terminus near Morgantown, Miller believes.

Extending I-68 through the Northern Panhandle could net enormous economic development benefits. But as matters stand, that will not happen because the state lacks the funding.

Miller’s idea was considered by some legislators last year but, in the crush of business, it did not receive the necessary support.

It is back again this year, in the form of Senate Bill 210 and Senate Joint Resolution 4. One of the sponsors of SJR 4 is state Sen. Ryan Weld, R-Brooke.

Approval of both measures in both the Senate and House of Delegates would be needed to allow the proposal to proceed. It could not be implemented without a constitutional amendment approved by voters.

Miller’s idea is no panacea for the challenge of funding important economic development infrastructure projects. But it is worthy of action by lawmakers simply because it would provide another tool to move such plans from the current “out of the question” to “possible.”


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