Road bond election to cost $2.8M
WHEELING — A special election this fall that could lead to nearly $3 billion in road projects across West Virginia will cost the state about $2.8 million — and it will all be done on paper, according to the West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office.
A constitutional amendment asking voters whether to give the West Virginia Legislature authority to issue $1.6 billion in bonds over the next four years will be the only item on the ballot in the special election, set for Oct. 7 — a Saturday — in all 55 West Virginia counties.
The election is less than 90 days away, and the last day for residents not registered to vote to file with their local county clerk’s office or election office is Sept. 18. There will be an early-voting period for the two weeks leading up to the election.
Although many counties, including Randolph County, have purchased expensive electronic voting devices in recent years, voting in the special election will happen on paper, said Mike Queen, deputy chief of staff and communications director for the West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office.
“We’re going with all paper ballots because it’s cheaper than programming the machines, with all the different kinds of computer ballots,” he said.
There are six different types of voting machines being used in the state, and each would need different programming for a different ballot, according to Queen.
“Because there is only one issue, the paper ballots won’t be hard to count,” he said. “If there are 12 or more candidates, it’s a bear. But the election still could cost us $2.8 million or more.”
Funding for the election will come from the budget of Gov. Jim Justice’s office.
In recent months, Justice has touted the virtues of his “Roads to Prosperity” constitutional amendment as a way to improve the state’s highways and bridges and advance development in the state.
His office has identified $2.8 billion in projects that would be ready to start, and among the largest of these is a $172.5 million project to rehabilitate and replace seven bridges along Interstate 70 in Ohio County.
The Legislature during a special session last month approved Senate Joint Resolution 6, the Roads to Prosperity Amendment of 2017, sending the proposed amendment before voters.
In the Oct. 7 election, voters will decide whether to give the Legislature authority to issue and sell bonds for the purpose of road construction and repair. In total, the Roads to Prosperity Amendment of 2017 calls for authorizing the sale of up to $1.6 billion in state bonds over the next four years.
The amount could not exceed $800 million in fiscal year 2018; $400 million in 2019; $200 million in 2020; and $200 million in 2021.
Repayment of the bond debt would come from funds generated by recent increases in Division of Motor Vehicles fees.
The proceeds from the bond sales are to be used for matching available federal funds for highway and bridge construction and general highway and secondary road and bridge construction and improvements throughout all 55 counties.
The amendment also would authorize the Legislature to collect an annual tax to pay the interest and principal of the bonds.
The money collected from that tax would be used only for the payment of that debt.
The maximum term of the bonds, according to the amendment, is 25 years