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West Virginia Governor Denies Road Bond Would Raise Taxes

Robin Capehart, West Liberty

An experienced scholar and attorney, Robin Capehart served as the president of West Liberty University for eight years. Before and after his time at West Liberty, Robin Capehart has been heavily involved with tax reform in West Virginia. Relying substantially on his LLM in taxation from Georgetown University, he has worked diligently to provide state officials with guidance on new tax policies.

Recently, Governor Jim Justice hoped to encourage West Virginians to vote for a roads bond by promising that gas and highway taxes would not be increased if they approved the measure, at least for his remaining terms in his position. At the same time, the actual language of the referendum raised many red flags about the possibility of new taxes. The referendum gives the legislature explicit license to increase taxes to cover the interest and principal payments on bonds.

Governor Justice responded to the language by saying that it is a general clause and affirming that the higher taxes put into effect earlier this year would support the measure. These changes raised vehicles sales tax from 5 to 6 percent and increased motor vehicle registration fees from $30 to $50. In addition, gas acquired an additional 3.5 cents per gallon tax.
In the Recommendations to Governor Underwood's Commission on Fair Taxation, Capehart noted that taxes that highway taxes that tied benefits to burdens are economically sound. However, he warned that supporters should not make a bold claim that over the multi-decade course of the bonded indebtedness that taxes will not be raised to support payment.

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