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Can we be realistic on roads?

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  • Transition team must act with urgency

    Transition team must act with urgency

    Friday, December 16 2016 6:00 AM EST2016-12-16 11:00:16 GMT

    Governor-elect Jim Justice’s policy committees seem to be made up of some of the state’s best minds. Dr. Clay Marsh with West Virginia University Hospitals; Bill Ihlenfeld, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District; Richard Adams of United Bank; Dave Arnold with Adventures on the Gorge; a host of other intelligent, qualified, inventive people who understand the challenges our state faces. 

    Governor-elect Jim Justice’s policy committees seem to be made up of some of the state’s best minds. Dr. Clay Marsh with West Virginia University Hospitals; Bill Ihlenfeld, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District; Richard Adams of United Bank; Dave Arnold with Adventures on the Gorge; a host of other intelligent, qualified, inventive people who understand the challenges our state faces. 

  • Chief of staff brings needed experience to the Justice team

    Chief of staff brings needed experience to the Justice team

    Friday, December 9 2016 6:00 AM EST2016-12-09 11:00:15 GMT

    This week, Governor-elect Jim Justice announced that Nick Casey, a long-time lobbyist, former congressional candidate, former state Democratic Party chairman and a fixture in West Virginia’s political scene, will serve as the Justice administration’s chief of staff.

    This week, Governor-elect Jim Justice announced that Nick Casey, a long-time lobbyist, former congressional candidate, former state Democratic Party chairman and a fixture in West Virginia’s political scene, will serve as the Justice administration’s chief of staff.

Building and maintaining roads should not be a political issue. In fact, it should be pretty straightforward. Potholes need filled, drainage ditches need cleaned, the highways need striped — while it might be painstaking and expensive, the overall concept is pretty simple.

Yet, somehow, West Virginia has lost sight of that. A recent study by TRIP, a nonprofit devoted to improving roadway safety, determined that we had some of the worst roads in the country. This likely is not a surprise to those who have to travel treacherous thoroughfares every day, but it is unsettling. Geography and topography play a role, but how we fund roadways has got to improve. We can’t expect help from Washington anytime soon. Just this week, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx visited Charleston, but was blunt in saying federal highway funds will slow to a trickle.

What are our options? The issue of truly addressing funding for our roads is a major one that has been avoided for a number of years. Gas taxes are user fees that have not been raised at the state and federal levels in almost two decades. These taxes can only be used for infrastructure, and care should be taken not to divert limited funds to unnecessary West Virginia Division of Highways overhead costs.

The DOH should continue to work on its efficiency efforts, such as improved response time and a leaner management structure. A user tax is the more equitable system to maintain good roads, bridges and infrastructure. However, other sources of support are needed and general revenue may need to be a temporary source until a final solution is found.

Tax reform does not just mean refraining from new taxes. It means reshaping taxes to accomplish what is necessary to stimulate the economy. A serviceable infrastructure is a key component. We can open our state for investment and do all we can to bring in prosperity, but without good roads, our efforts will be for naught. Our elected leaders need to take a long, hard look at both the Division of Highways’ budget and the overall budget and make smart, not politically expedient, choices.

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