The Times West Virginian

June 16, 2013

What’s the solution for funding highways?


Times West Virginian

— There was a time when the federal government put substantial highway dollars in the states to match funds for projects.

That was two wars and a recession ago, though. That was when Congress had its differences but could pass a bill or two every now and again. This Congress and the Congress before hasn’t been able to pass a budget that prevents integral federal employees from being furloughed, much less a highway bill that adequately funds states’ needs.

So, West Virginia, Ike every other state if the union is hurting when it comes to highway dollars. Add to that a substantial chunk of funding coming from gasoline taxes. Fuel efficiency is all the rage these days. So if cars are consuming less and less gas, there is less revenue coming from taxes.

There goes an adequate stream of highway funding. The governor’s blue ribbon commission on highways has identified the needs. And the panel has identified possible funding to meet those needs. These measures include: increasing the sales tax from 6 percent to 7 percent; increasing vehicle registration and title fees; raising the cigarette tax by 50 cents a pack; increasing the excise tax on diesel fuel; and raising the automobile privilege tax.

The kicker is that if every single measure were put into place, it would generate $400 million each year. And that’s about half needed to fully maintain and repair the state’s roads and bridges.

So what to do, what to do? We took the question to our readers last week, the readers who log on each week to www.timeswv.com and vote in ur online poll. Last week we asked, “A blue-ribbon panel is set to make suggestions for how to increase funding for road work in West Virginia by July 1. What would you be willing to pay?”

And here’s what you had to say:

• Tolls on new roads — 5.13 percent

• A few pennies more per gallon of gas — 9.4 percent

• A one percent increase on sales tax — 11.11 percent

• Nothing. We need to find a method to pay that doesn’t burden the residents of the state — 74.36 percent

We hope that a series of public meetings and more minds adding ideas to the mix will come up with a solution everyone can live with.

This week, let’s talk about lawmakers getting involved in advertising geared toward children for unhealthy food on Nickelodeon. What are your thoughts?

Log on. Vote. Email me or respond online.

Misty Poe

mpoe@timeswv.com

@MistyPoeTWV