West Virginia voters took to the polls in an Oct. 7 special election to overwhelmingly approve a measure that will provide $1.6 billion in bonds over the next four years to jumpstart the state’s road construction plan. Early results accessed Oct. 8 show the bond receiving 72.82 percent approval from voters. The “Roads to Prosperity” measure is expected to create 48,000 immediate jobs and provide funding for 500 transportation projects.
In June, West Virginia passed a bill to increase transportation funding by $135 million annually through a combination of various measures, including adjusting the variable-rate state gas tax, increasing department of motor vehicle (DMV) fees, instituting a new electric and hybrid vehicle fee, and raising the state sales tax on vehicles. This revenue, in combination with the existing privilege tax and turnpike tolls, will be used to repay the bonds over the next 25 years.
The measure was championed by Gov. Jim Justice (R), who led a statewide tour in the preceding weeks to promote the measure. Gov. Justice cited current low interest rates, growing forecasts for future inflation and construction costs, and critical job creation to keep West Virginians in the state as keys to the necessity of this measure.
“They’ve [the voters] spoken, and they’ve spoken loud. They’ve spoken with a mandate, and they’ve spoken that they want jobs, and they want opportunities, and they want change, and they want hope,” Gov. Justice said in a press conference following the results. “Now it all starts. Now the work starts. Now the hiring starts. Now the jobs come. Now the revenue comes. This is an unbelievable moment in the state of West Virginia, the absolute most historic vote in the state of West Virginia hands down. This will be our starting point, and we’ll build on this.”
“We’ve never been able to get 70-plus percent of our voters to vote for anything. …We are absolutely on our way to being something other than 50th.”
ARTBA research has found that 74 percent of over 1,000 state and local transportation funding ballot measures have been approved in the past decade.