CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Co-quote of the week No. 1: "The numbers don't seem to be in question. We have bad news here, but accurate bad news" -- David Satterfield former Development Office director, and citizen member of the Blue Ribbon Commission on Highways.
Co-quote of the week No. 2: "Tolling is the best way to get non-West Virginians to pay for our infrastructure." -- Commission member and Marshall professor Andrew Nichols.
There's no bigger disconnect in state government than roads and highways. Everybody wants good roads, but nobody wants to pay for them.
The assessment by outside engineering consultants that the state needs to raise an additional $400 million a year to keep existing roads and bridges from deteriorating, and as much as $1.3 billion a year to build and maintain the road system the state needs was met with immediate blow-back.
While some may argue about whether those numbers could be reduced through efficiencies or eliminating the prevailing wage law, the bottom line is we are a small state with a lot of roads to maintain, with no county road system to help offset costs, and with the additional burden of having to build and maintain roads in challenging terrain.
West Virginia is not alone. At least 20 states are looking at ways to raise revenue to fund road and bridge projects, since the primary source of road funding, the gas tax, is being annihilated by the proliferation of high-mileage and alternate fuel vehicles.
While the work of the Blue Ribbon Commission is admirable, the history of the Legislature is that it will not enact tax hikes of this scale, or consider options like extending and expanding toll roads in the state, until the situation reaches a crisis, as last occurred in 1989.
Speaking of the Legislature, my initial headcount on Democratic caucus on the speaker's race has Harry Keith White, 23, Tim Miley, 20, and 10 that I couldn't put into either camp at the moment.
White clearly will be backed by business groups, and Miley by labor organizations, and those groups will try to sway delegates, with the knowledge an election cycle is only a year away.
Unfortunately, a whisper campaign is already underway to try to link White to rumored federal investigations of alleged election law violations by the Team Mingo faction.
Never mind that White ran unopposed in the 2008 and 2010 primaries and had only token opposition in 2012, and has thus been able to stay above the fray of Mingo County politics.
Ultimately, the race could come down to a coalition of moderate Democrats who late last week declared themselves to be uncommitted.
That includes Delegates Ricky Moye, D-Raleigh, Dave Perry, D-Fayette, John Pino, D-Fayette, Peggy Donaldson Smith, D-Lewis, Margaret Staggers, D-Fayette, David Walker, D-Clay, and Larry Williams, D-Preston.