CHARLESTON, W.Va. - It will take a lot more money to keep West Virginia's roads from deteriorating. This much is known.
What remains to be seen is where the money will come from.
One option is a $1 billion to $1.5 billion road bond. West Virginia Transportation Secretary Paul Mattox floated just such an idea in January.
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, who was then gearing up to run for re-election on a "more jobs, lower taxes" platform, stayed as far away from that idea as possible. A new bond does not necessarily require higher taxes to pay for it - if the state can find money to pay off the bond from within the existing budget.
Now, a Tomblin-appointed blue ribbon commission may again look at a road bond, though members say it is far too premature to know whether there will be a bond, how much money the commission will go looking for or where they will find it.
Gary Tillis, a labor representative on the commission, said he is going to recommend a road bond. To make that happen, the Legislature would have to approve the idea and put it in front of the state's voters.
"If you look at it, if you're going to borrow it, now's a good time," said Tillis, a member of the Affiliated Construction Trades Foundation.
Tillis predicted the road bond idea would "more than likely" be what the commission recommends.
Other commission members are not so sure.
"He's probably speaking to personal preferences there," said Bob Orders, the head of the road commission's revenue subcommittee and the CEO of St. Albans-based Orders Construction. "I have no indication that bonds would be the predominant method of funding highways going forward, but, certainly, bonding will be one of the myriad revenue sources that will be up for discussion."
Jason Pizatella, the Tomblin administration's legislative director, said it is "awfully premature" to say the commission will back a bond. The commission's recommendations are not due for several months.
"A bond is certainly an option," Pizatella said. "But one of many."
The commission's revenue subcommittee has yet to meet. It is still waiting to learn how much money it needs to look for. The revenue subcommittee is going to take recommendations from an infrastructure subcommittee, which is deciding what the state should do to maintain or expand its highway system. Once the infrastructure subcommittee comes up with a plan, the revenue subcommittee is supposed to come up with a way to pay for the plan over the next decades.