Lawmakers mull options for highway funding
Posted February 20, 2013
Raleigh, N.C. — Lawmakers are looking at various options to address the growing shortfall in road-building funds in the state Department of Transportation.
The state gas tax generates much of the money for DOT, but with more fuel-efficient cars and an increasing number of hybrids and electric vehicles, the gas tax isn't getting the job done.
The gas tax, which is capped at 37.5 cents per gallon through June, generates the bulk of the state's $2 billion Highway Fund for road construction and maintenance and part of the $1 billion Highway Trust Fund for road improvements and loop highways.
"What we'll be doing (is) looking at other revenue streams, and there's a lot of them, Senate Transportation Committee Co-Chairman Bill Rabon said Wednesday.
The DOT faces a $60 billion gap between road needs and revenue over the next 30 years, and lawmakers said they want to find ways to fill at least a portion of that budget hole.
Some states are looking at user fees, such as one that taxes the number of miles driven instead of the amount of gas purchased.
Sen. Neal Hunt, R-Wake, said North Carolina might need to copy Virginia's approach.
"A lot of people don't like what Virginia has done. They increased car registration fees (and) added a sales tax, an overall sales tax devoted to transportation," Hunt.
Hunt, who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee, said he also believes it's time to reorganize how transportation funds are spent across the state.
"Direct more money toward urban congested areas," he said. "We'll be looking at distribution formulas. Hopefully, we can get more money where it's really needed."
Gov. Pat McCrory campaigned last fall on changing the state's priorities as to how and where limited transportation dollars are spent. He hasn't called for any shifts since taking office.
Rabon, R-Brunswick, said he is in no hurry to change the highway funding formula.
"We don't pick winners and losers. We try to treat everyone fairly," he said.
Union County resident Jackie Delapaz, who was in Raleigh Wednesday for a school field trip, said she believes it's time for a change in funding North Carolina road construction.
"I think the rural roads are pretty good. The cities, they need the loops and the bigger roads to handle the congestion," said Delapaz, who works in Mecklenburg County.