No dollar amounts have yet been specified for King Coal Highway from the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, but Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., said Thursday some funding will be there.
President Joe Biden signed the bill into law on Monday.
“The increase to the state year after year for five years (funds from the bill) is very significant, hundreds of millions of dollars,” she said. “King Coal Highway and Coalfields Expressway are ongoing projects” and funding will support the work as well as speed it up.
Capito reported that state Transportation Secretary Jimmy Wriston said the state will now be able to “make much greater progress” on those highways.
Corridor H, which is another major highway priority, is slated to receive $200 million from the bill, enough to finish that project.
“I would think by completing Corridor H, that is going to move King Coal and Coalfields Expressway into a better position to get more and more dollars,” she said. “I think they are going to get more dollars anyway, but the more (projects) you can cross off, the better position you are going to be in with uncompleted projects.”
Capito said action on some of the projects through the bill may happen soon, but others later.
“You will see a continuation of projects ongoing,” she said, with the funding coming in over a period of five years. “It allows long-term contracts to be let. I think that is where you will see more action on King Coal Highway and Coalfields Expressway.”
Broadband projects may start sooner, as long as mapping of coverage is in place to pinpoint underserved areas and that may be completed early next year.
Items like mine reclamation can use the money “instantaneously” because it is an active existing program already.
“Some of it will be immediate, some of it will be over the next year if they are new programs,” she said. “A lot of it is more money into already existing programs.”
The bill, which includes almost $600 billion in new spending, will bring in a total of about $6 billion to the state over the next five years, with $3.6 billion in highway funding, a 54 percent increase over what would be received otherwise.
Other categories receiving money from the bill include:
Capito did not agree with every item in the bill, but that is what compromise is about, she said, and she was on hand Monday for the signing.
“In my view, this is a major win for the country,” she said. “Unfortunately, it has gotten too politicized.”
Capito said many of the things in the bill are needed and will involve a substantial investment in West Virginia, which is why Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Rep. David McKinley, R-1st District, supported the bill as well.
McKinley was one of 13 House Republicans to vote for it and has received criticism from the GOP for doing so.
But Capito said it’s a matter of seeing how West Virginia benefits.
“He knows this is good for the state,” she said of McKinley, and the other two representatives, Carol Miller, R-3rd District, and Alex Mooney, R-2nd District, who voted against the bill, have their own reasons for doing so.
But she said the GOP attacks on McKinley and the 12 others in the House are out of line.
“People want to penalize them, strip them of their committee assignments because they did a vote of conscience, what they thought was good for the country,” she said of the 13 House members.
Capito said she received phone calls and criticism for her support of the infrastructure, people “expressing their displeasure with my vote.”
“But we clarified,” she said. “All I have to defend is what I believe are the impactful ways it will help our state.”
Capito said she is concerned about the lack of bipartisan efforts and the divisiveness in Washington and that is one reason the bipartisan bill signing Monday was in a “celebratory mood.”
However, she continues her opposition to the Build Back Better bill now being negotiated in the House, as Democrats are trying to trim the original $3.5 trillion price tag to $1.75 trillion in hopes of getting all 50 Democratic senators on board.
The bill has some “good things” in it, she said, but it should be a bipartisan effort with Republican input, not a Bernie Sanders “wish list … a reckless spending spree.”
Capito also criticized Democrats as being “hypocritical” with the bill because what amounts to a tax cut for the wealthiest is included, pointing to stories in several national publications, including The Washington Post, detailing the “tax cut for the rich.”
The Post article said the bill includes a $285 billion tax cut that would almost exclusively benefit high-income households over the next five years by raising the state and local tax deduction cap that would primarily benefit the top 10 percent of income earners.
“The measure would allow households to increase their deduction from state and local taxes from $10,000 to $80,000 through 2026, and then impose a new deduction cap through 2031,” the article said.