Five prefectural governors gathered Wednesday in Tokyo to lambaste a key government panel tasked with discussing the privatization of tollway operators.

The governors released a statement urging the state to create a body to engage in dialogue with local authorities over the issue of expressway construction.

The five governors in question are Iwate Gov. Hiroya Masuda, Gifu Gov. Taku Kajiwara, Wakayama Gov. Yoshiki Kimura, Tottori Gov. Yoshihiro Katayama and Kochi Gov. Daijiro Hashimoto.

Mie Gov. Masayasu Kitagawa also added his name to the statement, although he did not participate in Wednesday’s meeting.

The governors said in the statement that they are refusing to bear costs linked to the construction of expressways until they are given further tax revenues by the central government.

During the meeting, which was open to the media, Gifu Gov. Kajiwara argued that prefectural governments should file damages suits if the state cancels any planned expressway construction projects.

“We should consider reviewing cooperation with the central government in various areas,” said Kajiwara, a former construction ministry official.

The governors were responding to a recent report by the state panel that calls for a review of all ongoing expressway construction projects.

This could result in a freeze on some sections of the 9,342-km planned tollway network.

The panel has also suggested that local governments set to benefit from expressway construction should also bear part of the costs of future projects.

The governors argued, however, that prefectural governments have already invested massively in connecting roads and other infrastructure based on the current expressway plan, which could all come to nothing if some parts of the planned network are unilaterally canceled by the central government.

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