W.Va. OKs road bond referendum
MORGANTOWN — West Virginia voters overwhelmingly agreed Saturday to issue $1.6 billion in state bonds to repair and build roads and bridges.
The Secretary of State’s office reported 82,382 voted in favor and 31,487 opposed in results from 95 percent of precincts.
Gov. Jim Justice’s administration has listed more than 600 planned projects, some in every county, which he said would be done in the next few years. He also predicted the program will create tens of thousands of direct and indirect jobs and was the only means the state had for doing that quickly.
“This is when the work starts. This is when the jobs start,” Justice said in a Tweet on Saturday night. “It’s historic.”
The Republican-controlled Legislature earlier this year approved taxes and fees to support some road repairs and bond repayments, which Justice signed into law.
They raised the variable minimum wholesale gas tax by 3.5 cents a gallon, increased the vehicle sales tax from 5 percent to 6 percent and hiked the motor vehicle registration fee from $30 to $50.
Lawmakers also voted to hold the referendum on bonding.
The West Virginia Republican Party Executive Committee opposed the bonding, saying it would commit the state to 25 years of interest payments. Some opponents noted that the referendum specifically commits the Legislature to provide sufficient taxes to repay the bonds over 25 years, saying that makes future tax hikes likely.
Justice, in the first year of a four-year term, promised that wouldn’t happen while he’s governor. He traveled around the state answering residents’ questions and urging them to vote yes.
According to the secretary of state’s office, turnout was low among West Virginia’s 1.2 million registered voters.