WASTE WATCHProposed Highways Study
from Eyewitness News Online
Senate Bill Wants To Finance Study To Look For Alternative Ways To Finance Road Repairs
April 9, 2013
West Virginia has tens of thousands of miles of state-owned public roads. Money to pay for repairs and paving comes from the fuel tax which goes into the state road fund. At more than 33 cents a gallon, West Virginia has the 10th highest gas tax in the country.
But, tough economic times and more fuel efficient vehicles means less money for the road fund.
The state senate passed a bill which would spend $250,000 to study alternative ways to pump money into the road fund. One avenue that's been discussed would put GPS devices in every vehicle. That way, the state could use satellites orbiting the earth to track how many miles you drive. The tax you pay would depend on how much you travel.
But that's raising privacy concerns.
"Well the GPS in automobiles, of course it looks like it could be invasion of privacy," Delegate Ron Walters of Kanawha County said. "They want to track your mileage so that every time you fill up you'll pay a gas tax based on mileage. And there's so many other things in West Virginia we need to look at before we go invading someone's privacy."
"The idea of putting GPS systems in private citizen's cars?" Delegate Suzette Raines of Kanawha County said. "I mean from a privacy standpoint from a cost standpoint I just don't see, I just don't understand how this could be feasible."
The bill made its way out of the senate and was sent over to the house where it died in the Roads and Transportation Committee on a tie vote. Usually that's the end of the story, but apparently to quote the movie "The Princess Bride" this bill was only "mostly dead." The committee reconsidered it and passed it along a straight party line vote. It's obvious someone wants this bill to pass and we don't know where the pressure is coming from. But we do know this. The bill's main sponsor in the senate is Robert Plymale of Wayne County. Plymale is also affiliated with the Rahall Transportation Institute in Huntington. And yes, there is a possibility that the Rahall Transportation Institute would conduct the quarter-million dollar highway study.
Besides big brother using eyes in the sky to know exactly how much and where you are driving there's also the price tag for the proposed study. The governor has ordered across the board spending cuts of seven and a half percent and an executive branch hiring freeze because state tax collections are almost 50-million dollars behind estimates.
Right now, the bill is in the House Finance Committee.
"There seems to be quite a bit of push back from our members as far as personal liberties and I think it is a big issue," Delegate Harry Keith White, Finance Committee Chairman from Mingo County said. "Obviously, you know West Virginians, we like to remain free as long as we can and it doesn't look to me like that would be an issue that would get a whole lot of traction this session."
Republican delegates who are critical of the plan say if paving roads was a priority, then democrats could find ways to pay for it without an expensive new study.
"The money is already in the budget and can be found," Raines said. "If we can find money to increase the salary of the DHHR director to $175,000, which is a bill I was an absolute no vote on, then we can find money to repair secondary roads."
"It's just a way to continue to get an increase in the gas tax without really telling you that's what it is," Walters said.
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