CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Candidates for the House of Delegates 13th and 14th districts unanimously oppose putting tolls on U.S. 35 as a way to pay for completion of the highway's expansion project.
"We need the road. We don't need the toll," said Scott Cadle, a Republican running for one of two seats in the 13th District.
However, political newcomers like Cadle and incumbent House members running for re-election don't agree on how to fund the U.S. 35 project in Mason and Putnam counties. A 14.6-mile stretch remains unfinished.
One candidate suggested putting a statewide bond issue before voters.
"Why can't we do a state bond to pay for it?" said Jimmie Wood, a Democratic candidate in the 14th District.
Other candidates said the state could fund U.S. 35 by cutting wasteful spending or redirecting money from other state accounts.
"Why can't we take money out of the surplus and do it for economic development?" said Jim Butler, a Republican candidate in the new House 14th District.
At least two candidates, 13th District Delegate Brady Paxton, D-Putnam, and Cadle, said the state might consider raising gasoline taxes -- although Paxton said he wouldn't necessarily support a fuel tax hike.
"Our roads are terrible," said Cadle, a truck driver. "So we pay as we go a little bit at a time. That's the only way I see the revenue."
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin has appointed a "blue ribbon" commission that's studying West Virginia's highways -- and how to pay for road construction and repairs statewide as federal funding decreases.
Delegate Helen Martin, D-Putnam, said she would wait for the commission to issue recommendations before she would support specific proposals to pay for U.S. 35.
"The road is horrible, but tolls aren't the solution," said Martin, who was appointed to the 13th District seat last year after the death of her husband, Delegate Dale Martin. "I'm hoping the commission has some good, solid answers."
The candidates, who met with Gazette editors Thursday, also spoke about a statewide audit of the Department of Education and K-12 schools.