Bluefield Daily Telegraph. January 19, 2023.
Editorial: Help for Virginia: Coalfields Expressway secures funding
Building a new four-lane corridor can be a long and difficult process. In the case of the Coalfields Expressway, it has been a nearly two-decade long struggle.
However, some progress has been made in recent years, particularly on the West Virginia side of the two-state road building project.
Just last year, construction began on a $150 million section of the four-lane corridor that will extend more than five miles through McDowell County.
Then, just before Christmas, a $25 million federal funding allocation was announced for a section of the Coalfields Expressway in Wyoming County through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
Then, just last week, a $7 million federal grant was announced for the Virginia-side of the expressway.
The funding will be used in the design and construction stages of a project to widen a 2.21-mile section of U.S. 121/U.S. 460 in Buchanan County — also known as the Coalfields Expressway — to a four-lane highway, according to Virginia Coalfields Expressway Authority Executive Director Jonathan Belcher.
“Actually there’s no paved road there yet,” Belcher said of the 2.21-mile stretch. “Corridor Q, which runs from the Kentucky state line near the Breaks Interstate Park into Grundy and Buchanan County, that’s been under construction for several years by VDOT (Virginia Department of Transportation). It’s due to be open in 2027 but it’s not open right now.”
VDOT had funding for a planned two-lane highway on that section with some climbing lanes for tractor-trailers, according to Belcher.
The $7 million federal grant will allow VDOT to expand that 2.21 miles from two lanes to four lanes where the Southern Gap Industrial Park in Buchanan County is located.
While the planned highway’s overall section is about 11 miles, the federal funding will turn about a fourth of it into a four-lane highway, according to Belcher.
It will connect with the highway that’s already been constructed in neighboring Kentucky.
That’s a good start for Virginia, where work on the Coalfields Expressway has been falling behind.
But it will take additional state and federal funding support to help complete this long-delayed four-lane corridor in both Virginia and West Virginia.
Parkersburg News and Sentinel. January 21, 2023.
Editorial: Income Tax: Reducing rate will help West Virginia grow
West Virginia’s leaders and economic development officials love to talk about all the reasons people would want to move here: quality of life, proximity to the nation’s population centers, low labor costs and property taxes lower than our neighbors, to name a few. But one area in which we consistently fall short is how we tax income.
Consider: When compared to the five states bordering West Virginia, the Mountain State has the highest overall personal income tax rate. That’s not a recipe for growth.
Gov. Jim Justice has for the past several years pushed for an income tax cut for residents, citing states such as Florida, Texas and Tennessee, where personal income tax has been eliminated and growth has followed, as models West Virginia should emulate. The Legislature has been hesitant to agree with the governor, and nothing has been done.
That must change this legislative session.
Justice, during his annual State of the State address earlier this month, urged lawmakers to enact legislation calling for a 50% reduction in personal income taxes, to be phased in over three years — 30% for first year and 10% the following two years. The move is expected to return about $1.2 billion to taxpayers and will result in West Virginia having the lowest personal income tax rate among its neighbor states, with the exception of Pennsylvania — from the current 6.5% tax rate to 3.25%.
The state is projecting a budget surplus at the end of this fiscal year of $1.8 billion. It makes financial sense for this to happen now.
“Think of the dollars you’ll be putting in your pocket,” Justice said of the money returned by the tax cut. “You’ll spend those dollars, and that helps us, too. The multiplier effect on those dollars is off the chart.”
“We are going to be lower than all the states surrounding us, again, creating an incentive for people to move into West Virginia and avail themselves of the financial success of the proposal we have here,” Revenue Secretary Dave Hardy added.
When you’re sitting on a potential surplus of taxpayer funds nearing $2 billion, giving it back to those who supplied it shouldn’t be in question.
The governor’s bill sailed through the House of Delegates and now is before the state Senate. Some senators have expressed concern over the plan and may present their own plan. If they do, their legislation also should focus on lowering the personal income tax rate. This will help grow West Virginia, particularly those counties that border another state where income is taxed at a lower rate.
The time is now for bold ideas that will propel the Mountain State forward. Reducing the personal income tax is a necessary step in making that happen.
The Intelligencer. January 25, 2023.
Editorial: Welcome New Ideas for Mountain State
If the thought of standing in line at the DMV, or waiting for documents to arrive in the mail, makes you cringe a little, it sounds as though West Virginia officials are making a change that could erase those inconveniences. On top of that, the change will set us at the forefront of providing digital services for residents.
According to Gov. Jim Justice, the Department of Motor Vehicles will this year become the first in the nation to digitize vehicle titles and the process to acquire vehicle registrations.
This will enable “online, mobile, and contactless services for vehicle retailers, lenders, insurance carriers, and West Virginians through the DMV’s online portal,” the governor’s office announced.
Among the benefits to such a change will be reducing the amount of paper used by approximately 4 million pieces per year; reducing the amount of time vehicle owners wait for titles; and significantly reducing the amount of time spent in DMV offices. Justice billed the change as good for the environment.
“We are proud to be the first state to allow this transformational technology to be a reality for all members of our community,” said DMV Commissioner Everett Frazier. “We believe that fully digital vehicle titling will offer significant benefits for our auto dealers, lenders, insurance companies, all of their service providers, and most importantly, our citizens.”
It’s good for our residents, it’s good for our businesses, it is more efficient and it will be good for the environment. And West Virginia is the first to try it. If that’s the kind of thinking that is making its way into Charleston, why stop with the DMV?
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