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Taxes shouldn't be first response to road needs

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Tom Stark
Parkersburg, W.Va.

After having attended a Blue Ribbon Commission forum/town hall on the highway funding issue, it is apparent that more common ordinary citizens like me should be attending these meetings as well.

A well-organized effort on behalf of the construction trades, highway contractors and trucking industry is packing these town halls and badly skewing the results of the "surveys" being conducted as part of the meeting. While the moderator admitted that the surveys are not "scientific," the commission is either wasting a lot of money paying for the technology to complete the surveys, or they will be used later in the process to claim that a large percentage of the population wants their taxes increased to pay for roads.

Of course the industries mentioned want road construction and maintenance to be well-funded. Their livelihoods depend on it so there is a vested interest in getting it done at all cost (to others).

To the contrary, most average citizens who also attended the same meeting are stretching to make ends meet as it is and no such sentiment exists in the ranks of those I know. Not when there are alternatives to raising taxes.

More appropriate would be the plan proffered by Delegate Larry Kump, R-Berkeley, recently that creates a set-aside specifically for highway funding from the significantly increasing severance tax receipts being fueled by the boom in natural gas and gas liquids. By doing so, other tax rates can be allowed to remain where they are. It is appropriate that the taxes paid by this industry specifically support the highway funding since the wear and tear on our roads are exacerbated by the traffic created by the tankers and water trucks that are being used far more since the drilling boom began placing added strain on roads throughout the state. 

He has also suggested that an operational audit be undertaken to seek improvements in operations and purchasing within the Department of Highways. I can attest personally that there are serious faults to be found with the manner in which some commodities are purchased such that the state pays considerably more for them than needs be spent.

These two proposals got no exposure from the board at the meeting I attended. It was never even mentioned among the options being considered. I will be submitting further written comments to the commission in support of these efforts. If you don't want your taxes raised you must make your voices heard at these meetings or by writing to the Blue Ribbon Commission with your thoughts. Without your input, it is apparent that the easy way will be taken again and we will be supporting the effort with more of our hard-earned money. Keep in mind this thought: Silence = Consent.