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W.Va. house passes $52.5 million in bonds for improvements to two state parks

March 07, 2012|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD | matthew.umstead@herald-mail.com
  • The West Virginia House of Delegates Wednesday amended and then passed legislation by a 95-5 vote that authorizes up to $52.5 million in bonds for capital improvements at Cacapon State Park in Morgan County and one other state park.
Herald-Mail file photo

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — The West Virginia House of Delegates Wednesday amended and then passed legislation by a 95-5 vote that authorizes up to $52.5 million in bonds for capital improvements at Cacapon State Park in Morgan County and one other state park.

Dels. Jonathan Miller, R-Berkeley, and Eric L. Householder, R-Berkeley/Jefferson, and three other Republicans voted against the amended version of Senate Bill 362, according to the House Clerk’s office.

State Sen. Herb Snyder, D-Berkeley/Jefferson, said he expects the Senate will concur with the House amendments in a floor vote today and believes Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin will sign the bill.

“It’s all but completed legislative action,” said Snyder, who indicated the House changes were technical in nature.

Householder said Wednesday in an email that the bill was fiscally “irresponsible” given the state’s $300 million deficit projection due to federal health care reforms.

“I voted against this bill because we cannot continue borrowing against our future lottery proceeds,” Householder said. “West Virginia’s bond debt and its ‘gold rush mentality’ of spending the taxpayer’s hard- earned money is a microcosm of what is happening at the national level.”

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Householder noted that the state House had separately voted Wednesday to approve a $40 million supplementary appropriation bill for various state agencies and that the project easily could have been funded from that spending bill instead.

Miller said the state parks projects are good, but lawmakers should use available tax dollars or cut spending to fund them and not borrow money.

“We should stop going down the path of borrowing our way to prosperity,” Miller said. “It doesn’t work.”

The bill, if approved, would make $3 million in funding for annual debt service on the bond issue available July 1, 2013. The legislation authorizes a bond issue for an estimated $23 million expansion and renovation project at Cacapon State Park and improvements to Beech Fork State Park near Huntington, W.Va.

Proposed for the 6,000-acre park 10 miles south of Berkeley Springs is a 67,000-square-foot, 79-room addition to the lodge. Included will be new indoor and outdoor pools, a spa, fitness center, dining rooms, meeting and private board rooms, and a bar and lounge on the first floor. Upgrades to the 18-hole, par-72 Robert Trent Jones Sr.-designed golf course also are being eyed, officials have said.

Snyder said he believes the bill rights a past wrong by the state to fund the improvements at Cacapon that were to be funded a few years ago.

Snyder credited the support of House Speaker Richard Thompson for the bill’s passage Wednesday. Thompson’s House district is in the area of Beech Fork State Park.

“He wants it as bad as I do,” Snyder said.

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