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AASHTO Journal

Gov. Justice Signs Measure Boosting West Virginia’s Limit to Bond Against Federal Funding

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice signed into law April 10 a measure to let the state Department of Transportation's Division of Highways increase its potential bonding against future federal-aid funds to $500 million from the previous $200 million.

While that could help the DOT speed up infrastructure projects by putting $300 million into state hands now that would be repaid over time by West Virginia's annual allocations from the Federal Highway Administration, it provides only a small part of a much broader funding package Justice had asked the Legislature to approve.

dollarpump.jpgIn all, Justice and Transportation Secretary Tom Smith have said they want to invest an additional $2.8 billion in West Virginia roads and bridges by issuing infrastructure bonds that could be paid for by higher motor fuel excise taxes and vehicle registration fees, along with bonding against the WVDOT's future federal allocations and adding to turnpike tolls.

As part of that package, Justice had asked legislators to let state voters in November decide whether to approve $1.6 billion in state highway bonds, separate from the bonds backed by federal funding and to be repaid from higher motor fuel taxes.

But although the governor had been hopeful the Legislature would include most of his transportation package in an overall budget measure, lawmakers on April 8 instead passed a budget for the fiscal year starting in July that would raise no taxes and require spending cuts to close a budget gap. It also had a delayed effective date of July 8 instead of when the budget year begins July 1.

Justice on April 13 vetoed the Legislature's budget bill, an action that would set up a new round of high-stakes negotiations with legislative leaders to avoid a potential disruption this summer of government agency operations.

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