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Hearings on ways to fund state highways delayed

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A state panel studying ways to adequately fund state highways will begin a series of public hearings about a month later than originally hoped, the commission's chairman said.Jason Pizatella, counsel to Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and chairman of the governor's Blue Ribbon Commission on Highways, said dates and times for what will be eight public hearings on highways funding should be announced on Friday.Hearings will take place in Wheeling, Martinsburg, Fairmont, Parkersburg, Beckley, Princeton, Huntington and Logan, and there will be a public comment period during the commission's next meeting in Charleston, set for June 26.Initially, plans were to complete the public hearings prior to the June 26 meeting. Pizatella said the hearings had to be delayed, in part, because the Rahall Transportation Institute in Huntington has not completed a PowerPoint presentation and handouts outlining issues surrounding road funding to be distributed at the hearings.The commission's original deadline for submitting recommendations to the governor was July 1, but Pizatella said Tomblin pushed that back to Aug. 1.
"He said, 'I know you were supposed to have that report on July 1, but I don't want to be rushed on this, or have the commission be rushed on this,'" Pizatella said.At the commission's May meeting, consultants concluded the state needs to raise an additional $600 million a year to be able to adequately maintain existing state roads, and more than $1.2 billion a year to complete and maintain all current and proposed state highways.Commissioners discussed options to raise about $400 million a year in new revenue through increases in the state sales tax, vehicle privilege tax, and Division of Motor Vehicles fees, but several commissioners noted it would be politically unfeasible to raise taxes and fees by that amount.Reach Phil Kabler at or 304-348-1220. 
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