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Several groups come out in support of road bond referendum (The Herald-Dispatch)

9/17/2017

By Fred Pace | The Herald-Dispatch

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS - During this month's 81st annual Meeting and Business Summit of the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce at The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, the chamber's board of directors voted unanimously to support the Roads to Prosperity Amendment of 2017.

"The Roads to Prosperity Amendment of 2017 will be before the voters on Saturday, October 7," Steve Roberts, president of the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce, wrote in an email to chamber members last week. "If approved, it will authorize the state to take out up to $1.6 billion in bonds for road projects over the next five years. This amendment is part of an overall highway program that will include over $3 billion in infrastructure spending in West Virginia."

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice has proposed about $2.8 billion in road construction and maintenance projects all over the state. State officials plan to fund about $1 billion in construction through raising tolls on the West Virginia Turnpike and traditional bond sales, but the additional $1.6 billion in projects will require passage of a constitutional amendment to allow the state to pursue additional bonds.

Roberts says passage of this road bond referendum will not increase taxes.

"During the 2017 Legislative Session, the Legislature passed a gas tax increase, increased DMV fees and gave the Turnpike Authority increased tolling capacity," he said. "These changes are already in effect and are the designated revenue sources to fund the Roads to Prosperity Amendment."

Roberts added that every region and county in West Virginia will benefit from the passage of road bond referendum.

"The West Virginia Chamber is also pleased to announce that we are working closely with a coalition of organized labor, teachers' unions, local chambers of commerce, and West Virginia industry organizations to support this effort," Roberts said. "These groups are supportive of this measure and are working hard to get their members to the polls to vote yes on October 7."

The West Virginia Municipal League, the West Virginia Association of Counties, the County Commissioners Association of West Virginia, organized labor, the Coal Association, the Business and Industry Council and other groups are encouraging voters to support the road bond.

"Our members realize the importance of good roads and safe bridges to West Virginia's economy, our municipal and county citizens and we hope the voters recognize this is a rare opportunity to improve our infrastructure with existing revenues", said Lisa Dooley, executive director of the WV Municipal League.

The WV Municipal League is comprised of 232 municipalities in the state, the WV Association of Counties is comprised of 55 counties in the state and the County Commissioners Association of WV is comprised of the governing members of each of the 55 counties.

"This is a win-win for West Virginia," said Jonathan Adler, executive director of the WV Association of Counties. "We have the rare opportunity to transform our roads and bridges so they are safer for motorists and reliable for commerce. Our three associations are asking voters to vote yes on Oct. 7."

"Our organizations work to enhance municipal and county citizen's lives in West Virginia, and our members have been working to that end for more than three decades," said Vivian Parsons, executive director of the County Commissioners Association of WV.

All of the groups supporting passage of the road bond referendum say it will mean a vastly improved infrastructure in the state and thousands of new construction jobs.

"The West Virginia Chamber is encouraging all members to help spread the word about this important measure and remind your friends, family and co-workers to vote yes on October 7," Roberts said.

One group that has come out in opposition to the bond proposal is the West Virginia Republican Party's executive committee. Last month, a majority of committee members present approved a resolution to oppose the measure. Rob Cornelius, Wood County's Republican party chairman and drafter of the resolution, said the bond proposal violates several aspects of the party's platform, specifically the tax and fee increases. He also said that given the state's recent budgetary woes, it is not appropriate for the state to borrow more money.

The deadline to register to vote in the Special Election is Monday, Sept. 18. Early voting begins on Friday, Sept. 22, and runs through Wednesday, Oct. 4. To view a full list of candidate projects by county, visit online at http://www.transportation.wv.gov/highways/programplanning/Documents/Roads%20to%20Prosperity%20Project%20List.pdf.

Follow reporter Fred Pace at Facebook.com/FredPaceHD and via Twitter

@FredPaceHD.

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