For the last few months, since I was assigned by Speaker Miley to replace Delegate Josh Stowers, I have been a part of the working group assigned to the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Highways which has been studying the condition and needs of the state’s transportation system and developing a long-term strategic plan of action.
The plan we must preset to the Governor will include funding options for the maintenance, construction and expansion of the state’s roadway system. The Commission traveled around the state seeking input from citizens about the best way to fix our roads.
The commission was charged with finding ways for the state to generate more money for road projects. One way we discussed as a way to increase funding would potentially bring in an additional $75 million per year by bumping up Department of Motor Vehicle fees. Raising fees instead of taxes would lessen the burden on people who don’t use the roads and collect money from those that do. Many of these fees have been unchanged for over 30 years while the roads have continued to deteriorate.
The commission recommends increasing title fees to $40, which would generate an additional $21 million per year. For instance, vehicle registration fees, which were last increased in 1976, would go from
$28.50 to $48.50. The change is expected to generate around $26 million more per year. Driver’s license fees would increase from $2.50 per year to $7.50 per year under the committee’s recommendations, generating an additional $6.5 million in road funding per year.
The largest proposed increase would affect hearing fees, the amount individuals pay to reimburse law enforcement officers appearing at court proceedings. The commission wants to increase those fees from $10 to $400, although the proposal would generate only $780,000 per year.
Another suggestion was to sell $1-billion in Parkway bonds, extending tolls on the West Virginia Turnpike another 30 years rather than removing them in 2019 as currently planned, and gradually raising the tolls to pay off the debt. One study suggests that 70 percent of the money from tolls comes through out of state residents, so that is one hopeful part but it still lays much on the residents of Southern West Virginia.
These are all proposals under discussion but nothing, and I reiterate, nothing, has been finalized. We must still thoroughly think these matters through to find the correct path for West Virginia taxpayers.
This is a real issue, our highways, interstate system and country roads are in dire need of upkeep and maintenance. Building roads that take us home to West Virginia is a tough and costly job because of the terrain and building in, around and through the mountains. We must figure out a compromise which addresses the needs best without putting it solely on the backs of state residents.
If you should have any questions or comments regarding any issues or bills before the legislature please feel free to contact me. To write me, my address is Delegate David Walker, State Capitol, Building 1, Room 203-E, Charleston, WV 25305. Or you may call me at (304) 340-3135. I encourage all my constituents to remain active and become part of the legislative process.