@NCCapitol

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Lawmakers named to revamped DOT board

Posted July 31, 2020 3:05 p.m. EDT

NC Department of Transportation building, DOT sign, DOT building

— Three lawmakers have been named to the board that oversees the state Department of Transportation.

Legislation passed last month overhauled DOT operations after the agency overspent by more than $700 million. In addition to giving the board more oversight authority, the legislation also revamped the board, expanding it from 19 gubernatorial appointees to 20 members, six of whom are appointed by the General Assembly.

Former Sens. Jerry Tillman, R-Randolph, and Andy Wells, R-Catawba, and Rep. Chuck McGrady, R-Henderson, were among the first four legislative appointees named this week.

The fourth appointee is Stephen Rosenburgh, the founder and president of a Charlotte real estate investment firm who previously served on the state Banking Commission and a regional transportation board.

Tillman and Wells recently retired from the Senate. McGrady said Friday that he wants to wrap up work on pandemic relief and the state budget when the General Assembly reconvenes in September before resigning his House seat.

"We don't need go-along-to-get-along style oversight at the Department of Transportation, which faces severe financial challenges largely of its own making," Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger said in a statement announcing Wells' and Tillman's appointments. "Andy and Jerry bring a no-nonsense attitude and significant budgeting experience to the board, and I'm hopeful they can help turn the agency around."

Wells has a background in real estate and engineering, while Tillman, a retired educator, headed the Senate Finance committee.

The DOT has been the focus of two critical audits in recent months.

State Auditor Beth Wood told lawmakers in May that the agency needed better spending forecasts and more budget oversight to prevent a repeat of last year, when it went over budget by about 13 percent.

An audit released three weeks ago found that DOT managers improperly handed out $39 million in raises to employees.

Combined with high recovery costs after Hurricane Matthew and Hurricane Florence and payouts to landowners after the state lost a court case, the overspending led to a cash crunch at DOT that resulted in many planned road projects being halted and layoffs for contractors and temporary employees.

Lawmakers have twice bailed out the agency since last fall – DOT's gas tax revenue took hit this spring as people cut back on driving during the pandemic – and the measure that overhauled the DOT board also cut spending in a range of programs.

"Restructuring the Board of Transportation with legislative appointments will help our state avoid a repeat of this shortfall and develop a long-term financial vision for infrastructure projects that benefit all North Carolinians," House Speaker Tim Moore said in a statement.

Legislative leaders still have two appointments to fill on the DOT board, and Gov. Roy Cooper hasn't said who will fill the remaining 14 seats on the revamped board.

WRAL Statehouse reporter Travis Fain contributed to this report.

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