Don't expect Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin to recommend removing or keeping the tolls on the West Virginia Turnpike or dissolving the state Parkways Authority during his State of the State address Wednesday.
"No, I'm not anticipating anything like that," state Department of Transportation Secretary Paul Mattox said Monday after a panel discussion about transportation funding.
He thinks it's more likely the governor helps the department comply with federal highway requirements that call for EZ-Pass systems to communicate with one another.
Tomblin could also call for help with video enforcement issues, creating a better system for collecting revenue from Turnpike drivers who don't pay tolls, Mattox said.
The governor's office hasn't released its final report yet regarding recommendations, including a $1 billion bond issue, from the Blue Ribbon Commission on Highways. A Tomblin spokeswoman did not return a request for comment Monday.
Last year, Jason Pizatella, then Tomblin's legislative director and the governor's designee on the commission, said Tomblin had "strong reservations" about removing the tolls after the debt is paid.
In the fall, the commission recommended issuing $1 billion in bonds and leaving the tolls on the Turnpike until 2049. They recommend regular toll increases as well, suggesting two different strategies for implementing the increase.
Soon after the recommendation was released, Tomblin told the Charleston Gazette he wasn't sure "a bond issue of that magnitude at this time is something we want to get into."
Potentially increasing tolls and shifting the Parkways Authority under the control of the Department of Highways are both parts of a larger discussion about highway funding problems.
Last year, 97 members of the 100-seat state House of Delegates voted in support of a measure to let Turnpike tolls expire when the debt is paid off in 2019. The bill failed to advance out of the Senate Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
Committee Chairman Bob Beach, D-Monongalia, said Monday during the panel discussion he is in favor of keeping the tolls.
"There's a burden on southern West Virginia, but it's a small burden," Beach said.
"I think there's some misinformation out there."
An EZ-Pass subscription allows drivers to travel the Turnpike at a discount, and there are plenty of areas that don't have tolls, Beach said. Mike Taylor, a Randolph County commissioner and highway commission member, also pointed to data that show most Turnpike drivers come from outside West Virginia.