We need answers for highways funding


Now that the West Virginia Legislative session is over, there has been no progress on how to increase funding to the West Virginia Department of Transportation. As I stated in a recent letter to the editor, this is what I feel needs to be done just to meet inflation and the current rate of spending on highway projects. Yes, this was directed at the federal government, but the figures apply to West Virginia.

“It is going to be a hard road to reach a highway funding deal this year,” I wrote in January, as part of a three-resolution idea I would like to see this year, and I called on Congress to fix the Highway Trust Fund. There is simply no way around the fact that we need to raise more money. The federal fuel tax has not gone up since 1993. We’d need to be paying 39 cents per gallon more on diesel and gasoline instead of the 24.4 cents just to make up for inflation.

There may have been some confusion about what I meant by that last line. I was simply trying to illustrate how far behind the fuel tax has fallen. I was not saying that Congress should immediately hike the fuel tax by more than 14 cents per gallon. That, of course, is the last thing our country needs, on top of all other increased costs we’ve faced in recent years, from more increases on durable goods to now everyone is facing Obamacare and the cost of healthcare in the future.

West Virginia is as guilty as the federal government. By not raising the state user tax on diesel and gasoline since 1993, our legislators have put WVDOT in a very precarious position. They are going to have to make do with what is left over in the budget this year for maintaining our highways and bridges. Many of you might not know that the majority of that budget was use up for salt, and cinders this year to keep our highways and bridges open to traffic.

So what does this mean in terms of paving of highway and secondary roadways and bridges that were scheduled for maintenance? WVDOT will have to request funding from the General Fund to complete their scheduled work for this summer.

As for next year, this is up in the air. There is going to have to be a fuel tax increase to support WVDOT and I would suggest a graduated tax increase and to not go after it all at once. By doing a graduated tax on fuel, the price at the pumps will go up, but it will not be as shocking as if they went for all at once.

Our transportation committee is going to have to understand if we want the nice highway system along with our bridges, this is the only way to achieve the goal of sustaining the maintenance programs that, yes, we have all come to hate when summer come around.

Everyone needs to understand that we didn’t get here overnight. It has been the attitude of our legislators not to raise taxes. Well folks, taxes are the only way our state gets some of the funds to run our state. Other funds come from the federal government, but those funds have been cut due to sequestration and the reasoning of the federal government to turn over more of the programs that heretofore have been paid for by the federal government.

Our state is going to have to come to grips with this and make cuts in these programs as well as raising the fuel tax.

This means they will not be popular, but it is a necessity to fund our state’s highway system and it looks like this is going to be a way of life as long as the current administration is controlling Washington.

Michael McRae