CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- As the governor's Blue Ribbon Commission on Highways tries to finalize proposals to come up with about $600 million a year additional funding for the state Road Fund -- or about a 60 percent increase over current funding -- one proposal may be to float a new round of road bonds.
(In 2012, Transportation Secretary Paul Mattox pitched a $1 billion road bond amendment to the Legislature, and it went over like a lead balloon.)
Coincidentally, the Treasurer's Office just put out the latest Debt Position report, showing bonded indebtedness for all state agencies as of June 30.
Total bond debt: $7.81 billion, or the equivalent of not quite two years' worth of total state tax collections.
Currently, Transportation has a total of about $322.34 million of outstanding road bond debt on the books.
Meanwhile, the Economic Development Authority has a lot of outstanding bond debt, the largest being $480 million for Capitol Cement Corp. in Martinsburg. It also has about $207 million outstanding for Quad Graphics, $147.9 million for the Macy's distribution center, and $125 million for the Gestamp plant in South Charleston.
Speaking of the Road Fund, lobbyist Dave McMahon has run some numbers on why he thinks (his personal opinion; not the official position of Mountain State Justice) that the state's 5 percent privilege tax on vehicle purchases is a bad way to fund state roads -- since it ends up being a double tax for most consumers, with most buyers rolling the privilege tax into the cost of financing the vehicle.
Using the example of a 60-month loan on a $25,000 car at 4 percent interest, the privilege tax not only adds $1,250 to the cost of the car, but raises the monthly payment from $460.41 to $483.43.
That increases the total cost of the loan from $27,629 to $29,006, McMahon notes, so the car buyer in question is effectively paying an additional $1,381 "tax" on the original $1,250, so the 5 percent tax becomes 10 percent.
That additional $1,381 does nothing to improve state roads, since it goes in the pocket of the bank or finance company.
Lobbyists dislike monthly legislative interim meetings, and not just because they have to go to boring meetings, but because they are generally accompanied by fundraising receptions in the evenings, as was the case last Monday when Delegate Randy Swartzmiller, D-Hancock, kicked off the 2014 fundraising season with a reception at the Vandalia Grille.
Upcoming fundraisers on the Democratic Legislative Council calendar include: Delegate Barbara Fleischauer, D-Monongalia, Sept. 18; House Health and Human Resources Chairman Don Perdue, D-Wayne, Sept. 23 (during September interims); Majority Whip Mike Caputo, D-Marion, and Delegate Tiffany Lawrence, D-Jefferson, both on Oct. 21 during October interims. (Lawrence's event is also at the Vandalia Grille.) New House Finance Chairman Brent Boggs, D-Braxton, will have a fundraiser Nov. 19, during November interims.