You can’t expect to patch a road that is slipping down the mountainside for long. But Jim Justice just wants his hurry-up road repairs to last until he can be reelected in 2020. He didn’t make the roads WV bad, but he didn’t get started fixing them until he saw another election coming.
Justice, a billionaire owner of multiple coal mines and properties including the Greenbrier Resort, was elected by saying that his success in businesses meant he knew how to get things done. Many of us voted for him in hopes that someone who was coming from outside of government could shake things up and move our state forward.
Justice traveled around the state talking up his "Roads to Prosperity" road bonds that he claimed would be a "slam dunk" and spark economic development by borrowing billions to spend on new roads. But he and the Republican-led legislature betrayed us by cutting money for road maintenance and showering coal companies with tax cuts.
Now, he’s scrambling to find money wherever he can to fill potholes, including by borrowing money from his "Roads to Prosperity" funds, which will have to be paid back with interest. According to Gazette-Mail reporter, Phil Kabler, his efforts will be too little, too late, and he’ll be lucky to get 20 percent of roads fixed before he runs again in the 2020 election. As Kabler notes:
I suspect Jim Justice’s downfall will come not from a federal investigation, not from unpaid taxes and bills, not from no-confidence votes, and not from Woody Thrasher or Joe Manchin, but from roads.
A little factoid bears that out. Last week, newly appointed Transportation Secretary Byrd White proudly announced that Highways workers had ditched — cleared and opened ditches — 2,090 miles of roadway in preparation for repaving this spring or early summer....
All that seems like real progress, until you consider that, according to Highways’ own figures, the state maintains a total of 38,770 miles of roadways, so 2,090 miles of roads amounts to a little over 5 percent of the total.
So, if the state can repave 5 percent of roads this spring and early summer, and pave another 5 percent this summer and fall, and maybe get another 5 percent prepped for paving next spring, that puts the state on pace to repave 15 percent of roads by the May primary and perhaps 20 percent by the General Election.
Which means for the vast majority of voters, Justice’s promise to fix the damn roads will appear to be a broken one. Which will play well on the campaign trail for Justice’s opponents, who will be able to ask crowds, “Did Justice fix your roads?” To which they will likely respond with a resounding, “No!”
All Justice cares about is that his road repairs hold until the next election. He’s taking money from money we authorized with our votes for NEW roads!
We can’t vote for someone who cheats and burdens us with decades of debt, while giving gifts to his rich buddies.