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Legislative Bulletin
January 23, 2012
 

TRANSPORTATION DAY GENERATES TALK ABOUT STATE’S HIGHWAY NETWORK

 

CAWV members joined WVBT coalition members on January 12 to flood the Capitol with people interested in a long-term solution to the state’s highway funding crisis. Members wore reflective vests to make the message, “Roads = Jobs” visible to state lawmakers. Both the House of Delegates and Senate sessions were filled with members promoting the message. Media joined members for a press conference and joint meeting of the House and Senate transportation committees. Media outlets ran stories on the event highlighting potential solutions and discussing the issues facing the continued construction and maintenance of a safe and modern highway system. In addition to the editorials and newspaper articles that were generated as a result of Transportation Day (click here to view the January 20 Highway Bulletin), CAWV Executive Director Mike Clowser discussed the issue on Wednesday’s edition of MetroNews TalkLine with Hoppy Kercheval.

 

“We find that most everyone now understands that highway investment matters,” Clowser said on TalkLine.  “People also understand the importance of funding roads, but there are differing viewpoints on a solution.”  He noted that reduced funding from the federal government, increased costs of construction materials, increasing use of fuel efficient and electric cars and stagnant state highway revenues are creating major problems for the road program.  Asked by Kercheval what the solutions are, Clowser noted some work has already been accomplished.  “There were diversions to the highway program that cost the State Road Fund about $25 million annually.  These included the state police patrolling highways, the courtesy patrol, weight enforcement and the collection of the consumer sales tax on highway construction materials.  These costs have been directed to other parts of the state budget and this money now stays in the State Road Fund.”

 

He said the CAWV will be promoting other funding measures including adjusting vehicle and driver registration fees, increasing gas taxes, crediting the highway department with the consumer sales tax paid on automotive related activities (e.g. batteries, tires, parts, service), tapping into general fund surpluses and lottery proceeds.  The statewide talk show moderator questioned what the CAWV’s position will be on the road bond proposal presented by Transportation Secretary Paul Mattox to a joint committee of the House and Senate Transportation committees.  Clowser noted that there are pros and cons on selling bonds but, regardless, there would have to be a new dedicated revenue stream for debt service on the bonds.  If the debt service would have to come from the DOH’s operating budget, it would decimate the state’s secondary road and bridge construction program and maintenance program.

 

FUNDING PROPOSALS INCLUDE BOND ISSUE AND SURPLUS TRANSFER

 

Secretary Mattox’s proposal for a $1 billion bond issue has generated a lot of discussion since he first introduced the topic on January 12. (For articles on bond proposal, see the January 20 Highway Bulletin).  He noted that 18 projects could be completed within the next four years with a $1 billion amendment.  If the DOH would get $1.5 billion, the department could finish Corridor H in its entirety in eight years, which would complete the Appalachian Development Highway system in West Virginia.  It is anticipated that the DOH would need about $65 annually for debt service for a $1 billion bond amendment and about $90 million for a $1.5 billion amendment.  The projects proposed with under the $1 billion proposal include:

 

US Route 35 - WV 869 to Mason CR 40

WV 10 Rita to Logan (includes connectors)

Ohio River Bridge at Wellsburg

Meadowbrook Road extension to CR 13/1

US 522 - CR 13 to CR 9/9

Coalfields Expressway - Slab Fork to Mullens

King Coal Highway - US460/US 52 to WV 123 Airport Road

Beckley Z Way

WV 3 to Industrial Drive

New River Parkway - I-64 to S. Richmond Bottom

I-64 I/C with US 60 Interchange - Greenbrier County

US 60 - Chelyan Bridge to Shrewsbury

RHL Boulevard - Kanawha County

WV 2 - Proctor to Kent

US 33 - Scott Miller Hill Bypass in Roane County

Tolsia Highway (1st Section Kenova to Sharps Branch)

US 340 - Charles Town Bypass to Virginia Line

Corridor H - Kerns to Parsons

 

“Is it time to revisit a road bond amendment?” Secretary Mattox asked committee members.  “Perhaps it is time for the citizens of West Virginia to consider new funding measures that would support a road bond amendment.  These are questions that are best answered in true democratic process by a vote of the citizens.”  The Secretary discussed a revenue stream for the bonds, including vehicle and drivers registration fees, a bill which was passed last year and vetoed by the governor.  Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, through spokeswoman Kimberly Osborne, said after the meeting that he does not plan to propose a bond issue this session.

 

The Governor has proposed another method for providing additional highway funds. In his State of the State address, the governor specifically listed a proposal for infrastructure financing.  “It is essential that we don’t forget the importance that modern infrastructure plays in West Virginia’s economic future,” he said.  “We must find innovative ways to invest in safe water and sewer systems, invest in new and improved schools, in roads and broadband access.”  The Governor said he will submit legislation that will call for 50 percent of surplus revenues to be placed in an infrastructure fund once the Rainy Day Fund reaches 15 percent of the General Revenue fund.  “We have to invest in ourselves if we expect others to invest in us,” the governor stated.

 

H.B. 4252, the “West Virginia Infrastructure Modernization and Development Special Revenue Fund” was introduced today. The bill was not available for review at press time.  It is unclear what monies will be available in the future to go into an infrastructure fund.  The Rainy Day Fund, which currently has a balance of $820 million, is based on 10 percent of the General Revenue Fund.  The state needs a good surplus to get to the 15 percent.  In the past, the state has run a surplus but the budget outlook is not as promising.  Based on this year’s budget surplus, about $75 million would have gone to the State Road Fund and about $75 million would have gone for water and sewer projects, the governor told the CAWV.

 

Lottery revenues have been declining for the past three years and Medicaid costs are projected to soar to $3.5 billion over the next two years as the match changes and health care reforms take effect.  In developing this year’s budget, most every reserve account was drained in order to balance the budget. This budget also contains no teacher or public employee pay raises which will, in the future, require additional revenues.  On the flip side, no one knows what future revenues will be derived from activities associated with Marcellus shale development.  The Governor said he is still hopeful that West Virginia will be chosen as the location for one or two cracker plants which would be about $2 billion project, each. 

 

Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Bob Beach, D-Monongalia, said the only way a bond amendment will pass muster in the Legislature is for communities to come together and get behind it.  “I’m still weighing the odds,” he told WV Metronews Radio.  “I want to hear from those groups out there that would be impacted. In a lot of ways, this is a jobs bill.  This is a highway construction bill and it will put people to work.”  Chairman Beach says voters have traditionally supported such bond issues in the past.  The most recent was the $550 million amendment in 1996.  Two previous bond amendments in the 1980s were soundly defeated by voters. 

 

CRACKER PROPOSAL LEADS TO LEGISLATIVE ACTION

 

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s bill that would give a 25-year business property tax break to a $2 billion cracker plant has passed its first hurdle at the state legislature.  The House Finance Committee approved the bill Friday morning.  State Deputy Revenue Secretary Mark Muchow says a cracker plant, which would use byproducts of drilling for natural gas in the Marcellus shale to help develop other products, would likely increase tax revenues in several other categories that would more than make up for the property tax that would come in over 25 years.  “Two-billion dollar investments, which we’re competing with a couple of other states on, don’t happen regularly,” Muchow told lawmakers.  “This is a once-in-a-lifetime type opportunity for such investment to try to bring that into the state.”  Supporters believe a cracker plant could mean 2,500 direct jobs and as many as 10,000 other jobs along with revitalizing the state’s chemical and manufacturing industries.  The Governor has said a decision on where to locate a cracker plant could come as soon as 45 to 60 days.  Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia are said to be in the running for one or more plants.

 

CONGRESSIONAL MAP WON’T CHANGE

 

The U.S. Supreme Court Friday put a hold on a lower federal court ruling requiring the state Legislature to come up with a new map for West Virginia’s congressional districts.  The action will allow the three districts to remain the same, for now.  The Legislature made only a slight change to the districts last year, moving Mason County from the second to the third district.  That prompted a lawsuit from the Jefferson County Commission who objected to the second district being so spread out.  The district, which stretches from the Ohio River to the Eastern Panhandle, is the longest of its kind in the nation.  The state appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which Friday issued a stay on the lower court’s order.  Had the high court upheld the ruling, legislators would have had until February 3 to redraw the districts in order to have everything ready by the May 8 primary. 

 

MANY VETERAN HOUSE MEMBERS NOT SEEKING RE-ELECTION

 

Based on the initial filings for the 2012 elections, the House of Delegates will be vastly different come the November general election.  About 15 veteran delegates have decided not to run for re-election or are seeking other offices.  Tim Ennis, D-Brooke, was appointed to the Brooke County Commission, and Steve Kominar, D-Mingo, was named to the Mingo Economic Development Authority.  Daniel Hall, D-Wyoming, and Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson, are running for Senate.  Other delegates not seeking reelection include: Scott Varner, D-Marshall, Tom Campbell, D-Greenbrier, John Doyle, D-Jefferson, Virginia Mahan, D-Summers, Jon Miller, R-Berkeley, Roy Givens, D-Brooke, Ralph Rodighiero, D-Logan, Pete Sigler, R-Nicholas, Rick Snuffer, R-Raleigh, Gerald Crosier, D-Monroe, John Frazier, D-Mercer, and Greg Butcher, D-Logan.  Deadline for filing for office is January 28.

 

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin has filed to run for the next term of governor.  He was elected last October to complete the remaining one year left in the four-year term of former governor, turned U.S. Senator, Joe Manchin.  If Gov. Tomblin wins in 2012, the four-year term would be considered his second term in office and he would be prohibited from running again for governor in 2016.

 

WEST VIRGINIA LEGISLATURE BILL INFORMATION

 

House and Senate bills can be accessed from the CAWV’s Legislative home page at www.cawv.org/legislative.  Members can view status updates on bills of interest to the construction industry and see what legislation is introduced that affects the construction industry.  A summary of each day’s activities will be uploaded each afternoon.

 

Below is a list of bills that have been introduced this week that have an impact on the construction industry or some CAWV members.  Anyone needing further information can contact Mike Clowser at (304) 342-1166 or email mclowser@cawv.org.

 

HOUSE BILLS

 

HOUSE BILLS

 

H.B. 4086        Mr. Speaker (Mr. Thompson) and Del. Armstead [By Request of the Executive] - Designating certain property as a qualified capital addition to a manufacturing facility (FN) - To Energy, Industry and Labor, Economic Development and Small Business then Finance

 

H.B. 4092        Del. Staggers, Hall and Ferro [By Request of the Division of Highways] - Relating to signage for construction zones - To Roads and Transportation then Judiciary

 

H.B. 4120        Del. Staggers, Hall and Ferro [By Request of the Division of Highways] - Funding of the industrial access road fund - To Roads and Transportation then Finance

 

H.B. 4121        Del. Staggers, Hall and Ferro [By Request of the Division of Highways] - Providing that if a federal tax on motor fuels should be eliminated an additional state tax would be imposed (FN) - To Roads and Transportation then Finance

 

H.B. 4252        Mr. Speaker (Mr. Thompson [By Request of the Executive] - Relating to the Revenue Shortfall Reserve Fund, the Revenue Shortfall Reserve Fund - Part B, and creating a West Virginia Infrastructure Modernization and Development Special Reserve Fund - To Finance.

 

H.B. 4263        Del. Barker, Caputo, Martin, Hamilton, Butcher and Stowers - Procurement of Domestic Products Act (FN) - To Judiciary then Finance

 

H.B. 4269        Del. Gearheart, Frazier, Hall, Moore, Sumner, O’Neal, Ellington, L. Phillips and Savilla - Eliminating tolls of the West Virginia Turnpike before February 1, 2020 and providing that no new bonds may be issued - To Roads and Transportation then Finance

 

SENATE BILLS

S.B. 205           Sen. Beach, Edgell, D. Facemire, Klempa and Wills - Relating to construction zone signage - To Transportation and Infrastructure

 

S.B. 215           Sen. Beach, Edgell, D. Facemire, Klempa and Wills - Specifying unobligated moneys in Industrial Access Road Fund revert to State Road Fund - To Transportation and Infrastructure then Finance

 

S.B. 217           Sen. Beach and Yost - Creating new state tax upon suspension or elimination of federal motor fuel tax (FN) - To Transportation and Infrastructure then Finance

 

S.B. 243           Sen. Minard - Authorizing Courthouse Facilities Improvement Authority promulgate legislative rule relating to Courthouse Facilities Improvement Fund - To Government Organization then Judiciary

 

S.B. 247           Sen. Minard - Authorizing DEP promulgate legislative rule relating to permits for construction and major modification of major stationary sources for prevention of air quality deterioration - To Judiciary

 

S.B. 248           Sen. Minard - Authorizing DEP promulgate legislative rule relating to performance standards for new stationary sources - To Judiciary

 

S.B. 250           Sen. Minard - Authorizing DEP promulgate legislative rule relating to permits for construction and major modifications of major stationary sources causing or contributing to nonattainment areas - To Judiciary

 

S.B. 273           Sen. Minard - Authorizing DHHR promulgate legislative rule relating to public water systems - To Health and Human Resources then Judiciary

 

S.B. 275           Sen. Minard - Authorizing DHHR promulgate legislative rule relating to public water systems operators - To Health and Human Resources then Judiciary

 

S.B. 277           Sen. Minard - Authorizing DHHR promulgate legislative rule relating to wastewater systems and operations - To Health and Human Resources then Finance then Judiciary

 

S.B. 279           Sen. Minard - Authorizing DHHR promulgate legislative rule relating to public water systems design standards - To Health and Human Resources then Judiciary

 

S.B. 280           Sen. Minard - Authorizing Commissioner of Highways to promulgate legislative rule relating to state road construction and reconstruction - To Senate Transportation and Infrastructure then Judiciary

 

S.B. 281           Sen. Miller, Yost, Klempa, Wills, Laird, D. Facemire and Chafin - Creating WV Buy American Act (FN) - To Government Organization then Finance

 

S.B. 287           Sen. Unger - Requiring training of floodplain managers - To Government Organization