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PNS Daily Newscast - October 20, 2017 


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Politics Aside, Voters Say, They Want WV’s Roads Fixed

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice says the state now can move ahead on a huge number of road projects. (Dan Heyman)
West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice says the state now can move ahead on a huge number of road projects. (Dan Heyman)
October 9, 2017

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Some West Virginians who voted for the road bonds say they did so just to get the roads fixed. Now that voters have approved it, Gov. Jim Justice's proposal will allow the state to sell more than $1.5 billion in bonds to fund road construction and repair.

In the run-up to the vote, much of the attention focused on Justice and his switch from the Democratic to the Republican Party. But when asked why she voted yes at a Charleston polling station near I-79, Paula Dunlap didn't mention the governor and his complicated political alliances at all.

"We need our roads. Everybody uses this, it benefits every county,” Dunlap said. "I know some more than others - particularly Kanawha County, it benefits us more. But I didn't see any other way to vote but for it."

Nearly 75 percent of voters cast their ballots in favor of the referendum, although critics point out the turnout was extremely low.

Some on the left have argued that the plan gives the governor too much authority to decide which projects will go forward and when. Others point out the state does not have enough construction workers to do all the work at once - meaning much of the money could end up out of state.

Some Republicans have attacked the plan for leading to higher taxes, even though the Legislature already has agreed to the revenue measures to fund the bonds. Justice said it's time to get past such partisan disputes.

"It's high time to quit trying to find a gnat on a dinosaur,” Justice said. "Seventy-two percent of the West Virginians in this state said this is where we want to go, this is what we want to do."

Some important parts of the state's political establishment lined up in favor of the bonds. Both the AFL CIO and the Chamber of Commerce came out in favor.

But many in more partisan elements of West Virginia's political spectrum seemed not to trust the governor and his plan. Charles Curry of Charleston said he voted yes, in spite of his suspicions.

"You give money to a politician to spend, he's going to spend it one way or another,” Curry said. “And I'd rather be able to have a voice on the way the money's going, and we need the roads repaired."

Justice seemed delighted with the result. As he put it, it's nearly impossible to get more than 70 percent of state voters to agree when picking between Wendy's and McDonald's.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV