BLUEFIELD, W.Va. – House of Delegates Roads and Transportation Committee Chairman Marty Gearheart, R-Mercer, today again asked newly Republican Gov. Jim Justice to make clear that he’ll use the tax and fee increases passed during the recent special session – and only those increases, not additional taxes – to fund the road bond currently before the voters.
“The Governor says he now identifies with the Republican Party, and I certainly welcome him to our philosophy of limited government and low taxation, and hope he embraces it wholeheartedly,” Chairman Gearheart said. “I also hope this is more than just a change in name only, and that he is truly interested in joining the Republican Legislature in changing the way our state government operates.”
Last month, Chairman Gearheart issued a release asking the Governor to publicly commit that, should voters approve this $1.6 billion bond on Oct. 7, it will be financed with only existing revenue and nothing more.
During the recent special session, the Legislature passed bills raising more than $140 million for the State Road Fund through an increased gasoline tax, increased sales tax on vehicle purchases and higher fees charged by the Division of Motor Vehicles, and extending the tolling powers of the state Parkways Authority.
The Governor – then a Democrat – told lawmakers those bills were necessary not only to finance the $1.6 billion road bond proposal, but also to stimulate enough economic activity to raise Fiscal Year 2018 revenue estimates. However, the bills did not include any language specifying that the new revenue had to be applied to the bond issue.
Chairman Gearheart has expressed concern that, should the bond pass, there’s nothing preventing the Governor from coming before the Legislature in January and asking for more money to cover the bond issue because the current revenues are being used for maintenance and other activities.
“Now that the Governor has left the Democrat Party and joined the Republican ranks, I just want to be sure he acts according to the values we Republicans hold dear,” Chairman Gearheart said. “Specifically, Section 5-J of the State Party Platform states that Republicans are committed to, ‘Lowering the tax burden on West Virginia families and opposing any new taxes or increased taxes.’
“Since the bills passed during the special session did not include language formally dedicating the new revenue to the bond issue, I want to make sure that our newly Republican Governor will honor our party’s platform and not ask for any new taxes if this bond issue passes,” Chairman Gearheart said.
“Just as standing in a garage does not make one a car, saying you’re a Republican means nothing unless you act like one,” Chairman Gearheart said. “I certainly hope the Governor’s change of party affiliation is more than just a change on paper, and this is a perfect opportunity to clarify that he’s had a true change of heart. I look forward to his response.”