BLUEFIELD, W.Va. – House of Delegates Roads and Transportation Committee Chairman Marty Gearheart, R-Mercer, today said he wants Gov. Jim Justice to make clear that he’ll use the tax and fee increases passed during the recent special session – and only those increases, not additional taxes – to fund the road bond currently before the voters.
“During the special session, the Governor said he needed these tax and fee increases to fund his road bond, but nothing in the bills that passed requires the new revenue to go to that purpose,” Chairman Gearheart said. “I want the Governor to publicly commit that, should voters approve this bond, it will be financed with existing revenue and nothing more.”
During the recent special session, the Legislature passed Senate Bill 1006, which will raise more than $140 million for the State Road Fund through an increased gasoline tax, increased sales tax on vehicle purchases and higher fees charged by the Division of Motor Vehicles. Another bill, Senate Bill 1003, extended the tolling powers of the state Parkways Authority.
Lawmakers were told during the session that the bills were necessary not only to finance the $1.6 billion road bond proposal, but also to stimulate enough economic activity to raise Fiscal Year 2018 revenue estimates.
Chairman Gearheart, who voted against the tax and fee increases and new tolling powers, said that while these assurances were made to legislators, language was not included in the bills that formally dedicated the new revenue to the bond issue.
“While I want to believe we’re done with being asked to raise taxes for the Governor’s roads plan, history makes me skeptical,” Chairman Gearheart said. “This is the same Governor who campaigned saying West Virginians couldn’t afford tax increases, but then turned around and proposed the largest tax increase in state history after being elected.
“My worry is that, should the voters approve the road bond, the Governor will come before the Legislature in January and ask for more money to cover the bond issue because the current revenues are being used for maintenance and other activities,” Chairman Gearheart said. “I just want the Governor to clarify, for the record, that the tax increases that passed will fund what my colleagues who voted for them believe they will go toward.”
The road bond vote is slated for Oct. 7.