Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Borrowing From the Public Employees Retirement System For Road Construction Is Not a Good Idea

Acting Governor Earl Ray Tomblim quite understandably wants to get some accomplishments under his belt before he runs for the office on a permanent basis. To build his appeal in the Kanawha and Ohio Valleys, he tried to help hammer together a proposal to finish the final fifteen miles of U. S. 35 as a four lane road. This would connect Charleston to Point Pleasant with an expressway that would also extend nearly all the way to Columbus.

The plan calls for the state to borrow $110 million from the Public Employees Retirement System and pay it back over time with toll money.

This is a really bad idea. How long will it take to pay back the money? With baby boomers retiring, will this put the system into a financial bind? Would this not simply invite more borrowing from trust funds?

This sets a bad precedent and could leave public retirees more cash strapped. Combine this with the proposal to increase retirees' health premiums and you have a recipe to make a lot of older West Virginians a lot more fearful for their financial futures.

It will be nice for West Virginia to have a modern highway bringing traffic to the state capital. It would be nice for Tomblin's chances at election. But it is a bad idea and sets a bad precedent. Finishing this highway is not an emergency. Find some other way to finance it.

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