Highway funds shouldn't come from more taxation - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

Highway funds shouldn't come from more taxation

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Marty Gearheart Marty Gearheart
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Marty Gearheart, R-Mercer, is a member of the West Virginia House of Delegates.

On May 22, I had the opportunity to attend the regularly scheduled meeting of the Blue Ribbon Commission on Highways that was formed in 2012. This is the text of a letter sent the next day to Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and copied to the chairman of the committee:

 

I attended this week's meeting of the Blue Ribbon Commission on Highways. You have an outstanding group of individuals appointed to this commission for whom I have tremendous respect; however, the conclusions reached appear to be outside of what I understood to be the mission of the commission and are very disappointing.

My understanding was that this group was to determine the highway needs in our state and creative methods of accomplishing those needs. From what I can see the needs were determined by a highway consultant used frequently by the state and very little work was done below the surface to understand the detail that makes up the dollar amount calculated by this consultant. There is little question that equally qualified experts could look at the same information and find the figure agreed upon by the commission as grossly inflated.

I also understood that this group was going to work to find innovative/creative means of funding highway construction and maintenance. Almost all of the proposals put forward are simply different methods of tax-and-spend economics. They seem to ignore any thought of the basic principle that taxing an activity creates less of it and the last thing we need in West Virginia is less activity. Travel, gas purchases, vehicle purchases, etc. all are activities we want to encourage. Outside of the absurdity of tax increases in times of a tough economy the projections fail to consider the amount of tax revenue that will be lost when these activities decrease. I think that the consideration of potential tolling to fund new construction has the possibility of merit; however, the state must keep the unfulfilled promise to end tolls where their purpose has been accomplished. Why would any locality allow tolling for construction when the tolling will be a never-ending tax rather than simply construction funding on a needed road.

Much of what we do in state government I consider outside of our role. Roads, however, are completely within our pervue. If we reduce taxes as you have indicated as a main part of your campaign for governor, increase activity, and spend within the role of government (spending cuts this year were a good start), then we will have the dollars to maintain and grow our highway system.

While the final report has yet to be submitted and your office has not commented or suggested legislation based on the commission's findings, it is my hope that a more subjective evaluation of need is developed along with ideas to raise highway dollars via growing the economy rather than beating down our economy further via additional taxation. 

 

As of June 3 I had not gotten a response from Gov. Tomblin or Jason Pizatella, chairman of the commission. Based on my observation, we have wasted a good bit of time and money and should either have this commission start this process over with a more specific mission or find another method of finding solutions to our highway challenges. The results I heard are not reasonable or in my opinion accurate.