CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia's Legislature voted Friday to quickly ramp up road repairs and reconstruction across the state supported by a higher gasoline tax, raised sales tax on car sales and higher motor vehicle fees.
The bill approved 59-32 by the House is expected to raise more than $100 million a year. Delegates said they hear often from constituents that the roads need to be fixed.
It would also support bonding for Gov. Jim Justice's proposed highway rebuilding program, an economic stimulus proposal that requires voter approval in a referendum later this year. The Democratic governor said bridge and highway rebuilding will add thousands of highway jobs and make the state more attractive to businesses.
"I think the governor's bold road plan is long overdue in this state," said Delegate John Shott, a Bluefield Republican. Driving in West Virginia is not just inconvenient, some situations are dangerous, he said.
The other thing constituents want is more jobs, said Delegate Barbara Fleischauer, a Morgantown Democrat. "I bet we have the worst roads in the country," she said.
Delegate Tony Paynter, a Wyoming County Republican, said the state failed to spend $158 million in highway funds two years ago and $74 million last year. They shouldn't throw more money at an inefficient bureaucracy and "need some accountability" on how the state's road money is spent.
The variable minimum wholesale gas tax would rise 3.5 cents a gallon, the vehicle sales tax increase from 5 to 6 percent and the annual vehicle registration fee will rise from $30 to $40.
The Senate passed similar legislation with an additional 1.5-cent flat tax on gas that a House committee stripped from its version. The House also voted 49-40 to change the registration fee which in the Senate bill would rise to $50.
The differences have to be reconciled. It could take effect July 1 when the new fiscal year begins.
The Senate voted later Friday to amend the bill and put the registration fee back up to $50 then passed it again.