Traffic

Transportation panel agrees new taxes, fees needed

Posted December 10, 2008

— North Carolina motorists should be prepared to pay more to drive on roads if the General Assembly approves higher taxes and new fees to help pay for the state's transportation needs.

The 21st Century Transportation Committee, which looked at road-building, bridge and public transit needs, met Wednesday to sign off on final recommendations to give state lawmakers when the Legislature reconvenes next month.

Among its recommendations is a requirement for motorists to pay a fee for the number of miles they travel in a year.

Other sources of revenue include increasing the highway-use tax from 3 percent to 4 percent on vehicle purchases, increasing vehicle registration fees and putting tolls on some of the state's major highways, including Interstates 77 and 95.

The state Department of Transportation faces a projected $65 million budget shortfall over the next 20 years.

State officials commissioned the blue-ribbon commission more than a year ago to look at new ways to help generate $10 billion over the next 10 years for transportation projects.

Committee member Chuck McGrady said, however, that the group failed to address how to ensure the revenue be used properly by the DOT, which has come under fire from some for being inefficient.

"We also needed to ensure that, if we could find increasing moneys to fund these transportation needs, that those funds would go into a system and into a department that could use the funding efficiently," McGrady said.

"And I think others looking at this report will really wonder why it was that we skirted that set of issues," McGrady added.

Stephen Jackson, a policy analyst with the North Carolina Justice Center's Budget and Tax Center, said the report failed to address the DOT's inefficiency and how to move forward with the plan.

"It was kind of marginalized," Jackson said. "It was very much business as usual. How can we just pour more money into the same old leaky bucket?"

The transportation advocacy group N.C. Go!, though, applauded the committee for its work, saying it has done "the heavy lifting" in creating a plan for funding reform.

"Now it is up to legislators to act upon the recommendations before our transportation system becomes a drag on an already struggling economy," said Marc Finlayson, co-chairman of the group.

Committee Chairman Brad Wilson said the group put forth its best effort on the report but ran out of time. The committee dissolves at the end of the month.

"Remember, the goal for this committee was to take a big first bite," he said.

Lawmakers on the committee, however, said it would be difficult to get new taxes and fees passed in a bad economic climate.

"We need to batten down the hatch and hold the ship on course, if we can, without doing anything innovative or out there that would result in increased revenues," Rep. Nelson Cole, D-Rockingham, said.

Cole said lawmakers can't put the burden on taxpayers during a recession. From a projects point of view, he said, the situation is frustrating.

The DOT has halted a number of projects because of the economy and a decrease in revenue. Spending on new projects has been cut from about $80 million a month to approximately $15 million to $20 million a month.

"The frustration, right now, is the funding process," he said. "We're in a funding dilemma now. That's a matter of fact, about to shut DOT down as a result of lack of funds."

129 Comments

This story is closed for comments.

Oldest First
View all
  • killerkestrel Dec 15, 2008

    Sorry drnc, doesn't take only 4 workers and two trucks to repair a decent sized pothole.

    For equipment, you need an asphalt mixer to make it, a roller, a trailer for the roller, an air compressor for the jackhammer, and 3 trucks to pull them. For personnel, you need a couple flagmen, a couple equipment operators, and a couple shovel men. Shoveling 10 tons of asphalt a day gets heavy, and you really should have a couple more to do that much. So 3 trucks, 3 trailers, a roller, and 6-8 men to do the job right.

  • drnc Dec 12, 2008

    Easy solution. Spend less. Hire someone to tear the DOT budget apart and find some real savings. Run the department like you would run a business. Start by cutting the number of employees it takes to repair one pothole - 4 workers and two new trucks.

  • Even Dec 11, 2008

    Take a look around at neighboring states gas tax. NC is a least double any other state already. Georgia has a 7.5 cents per gallon vs. NC 30.5 cents per gallon. What happens to all that extra gas tax money? How about giving jobs to the legal residents who pay taxes and remove those that pay none but get all of the same benefits. It's a shame to think that we just voted and put those responsible for this mess back in.

  • killerkestrel Dec 11, 2008

    Doesn't the money from tickets (by law) go to the school system. So ticketing more wouldn't help highway funding.

  • wayne1961 Dec 10, 2008

    The facts are on this website
    http://www.ncdot.org/about/finance/

    NCDOT spends $1.5 Billion a year in TIP construction. AN EXTRA $2 BILLION IS NEEDED to keep up. It is well documented.

    You simply cannot squeeze $2 Billion in savings out of $1.5 Billion. Complain about incompence, gas taxes, mismanagement, whatever, but the main fact is there's not enough $$$ coming in to keep up with transporation infrastructure.

    Although there are some ideas on this message board that will help here and there, it is a small % of what is needed. The transfer from the trust fund to the general fund is only about 10% of what is needed. I don't see any of your suggestions adding up anywhere close to $2 BILLION.

    Face the facts, either pay more transportation infrastructure, or don't complain when you are sitting in traffic.

  • Eduardo1 Dec 10, 2008

    COMMON GUYS, HIT US HARD, WE HAVE ALL OF THIS EXTRA MONEY SINCE THE PRICE OF GAS HAS LOWERED. NOT ONLY THAT, BUT THE SENIORS JUST GOT A 5% RAISE IN SS. DON/T BE CONCERNED, THAT THE MEDICARE JUST GOT AN INCREASED AND THAT ALL MEDICAL SUPPLEMENTAL PLANS JUST RAISED THERE PREMIUMS, AND THE DRUG PLANS ALSO JUST RAISED THEIR PRICES, THE HECK WITH THESE OLD PEOPLE, THEY NO LONGER ARE OF ANY USE, AND SO MANY ARE LIVING TOO LONG, WITH NEW MEDICINES AND SURGICAL PROCEDURES.

  • AtALost Dec 10, 2008

    I'm for tolls. That way the illegals who aren't licensed, registered, etc. will still have to pay too.

  • coolwill Dec 10, 2008

    The governors just met with the president elec. for the same thing. Sounds like double dipping. Once they start with increases and new feeds it only goes higher. If you do not have the money coming in then restructure, maybe they need to file bankruptcy. They sure have enough none US citizens doing work on the highways maybe they should reevaluate the contract; just maybe the highway workforce is sending their money across the border. Make sure all theses business are paying taxes. What do you think NC government will be asking for in 2009, 2010, 2011 etc.. And they are still pushing a train.

  • SANDHILL Dec 10, 2008

    The panel agrees on new taxes and fees needed but I sure as heck don't. They have wasted more than enough money already.

  • coolwill Dec 10, 2008

    enough is enough.

More...