ROAD/BRIDGE CONSTRUCTION: W.Va. looks for alternative ways to fund highway projects

Commission makes a number of recommendations, but state lawmakers might not lend much support

September 12, 2013

West Virginia state lawmakers still have not moved past a veto back in 2011.

Two years ago a bill, which included a raise in DMV fees in an effort to generate new money for road and bridge construction, was passed to the desk of Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and was rejected. Now Tomblin is trying to rally support for recommendations from his own Blue Ribbon Highways Commission, and he’s not getting very far.

The Commission wants a new fee for alternative fuel vehicles and significant increases in DMV fees, and suggested to keep tollbooths on the West Virginia Turnpike and sell $1 billion in road bonds.

House Minority Leader Tim Armstead said he and his colleagues agree something needs to be done to boost funding for infrastructure, but they do not want to overburden the taxpayer. Tomblin used the same excuse when he issued his veto in 2011.

“Whether it’s a fee or a tax, it’s money they don’t have to put food on their table,” said Armstead. “I think there are ways we can do that without placing a new tax burden on our citizens. I just don’t think they can afford to have that tax burden placed on them.”

Commission Chairman Jason Pizatella believes there is public support. The Commission surveyed a group of West Virginians, and 78% favored keeping tolls on the Turnpike, and about half agreed with an increase to the vehicle tax.