State officials, including Governor Jim Justice, made their case for the approval of the Road Bond Referendum, scheduled to be decided by voters on Saturday, Oct. 7.
They made their pitch during a conference call with state media representatives, on Thursday, Sept. 14. The call was facilitated by the West Virginia Press Association.
The entire project is projected at approximately $3 billion, with $1.6 billion coming from the bond vote.
Lewis County has 16 projects listed, totaling $28 million,
including $16 million to redesign and light the Exit 99 interchange of Interstate 79.
The infrastructure project proposed by the Governor would fund projects in every county in West Virginia, according to a press release.
Justice opened the call by referring to the bond vote as the “single biggest vote in the history of our state.” He also characterized it as a “launching pad,” for the state’s economy. Justice claims that the entire infrastructure program would create 48,000 jobs.
When asked how the state would go about ensuring that the jobs created went to West Virginians, Justice conceded that it was unrealistic to expect 100 percent of the jobs to be filled by West Virginia workers.
He did go on to point out that the out-of-state workers employed on the proposed projects, would still play state payroll tax, have stays in hotels, and shop in stores in the state.
Steve White, the executive director of the Affiliated Construction Trades foundation noted that labor unions would provide training and apprenticeship programs to train new workers.
He went on to say that construction projects of the magnitude being proposed would also create demand for secondary jobs, such as drivers.
Justice, during the call, struck back at opponents of the bond measure, particularly those who claim that approval will raise taxes.
“That is so un-West Virginian, if that’s a word. It’s so untrue,” Justice said.
He noted that the revenue for the project was already in, due to the increase of the wholesale gasoline tax, an increase in tolls on the West Virginia Turnpike, and an increase in Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) fees, all of which have been approved and have already gone into effect on July 1.
Justice went on to address opponents who favor the pay-as-you-go approach, saying “All of us are going to grow old and die before those roads are finished,” before noting that the pay-as-you-go approach would fail to stimulate the economy through job creation.
Justice also referred to Corridor H as “by far the most important road project to our state,” before going on to note that passage of the bond measure would help fund new construction on the project.
“We currently have about 7 miles of the Kerens to Parsons section under contract,” said Tom Smith, the state commissioner of highways and state Secretary of Transportation.
“The Roads to Prosperity program would allow us to finish Corridor H over to Parsons. It would be finished and open to traffic.”