RALEIGH, N.C. — Although several lawmakers tried, this year's budget does not include language that forbids transfers from the highway trust fund into the general fund.
Just as many observers say education is the winner in the state's new $20 billion budget, others say transportation is a loser.
One big reason, critics say, is that legislators transferred $170 million from the state's Highway Trust Fund to the General Fund.
"Residents of Wake County, as well as all across the state, should be up in arms about the transportation funding in this budget," Rep. Nelson Dollar, R-Wake, said. "Transportation has essentially been ignored."
"In essence, I'm frustrated with this budget," Rep. Nelson Cole, D-Rockingham, said. "We're fast approaching some serious problems in our transportation infrastructure needs."
Some revenue sources, such as the gas tax, are bringing in less money. Declining revenues, along with sky-rocketing construction costs and a rapidly growing population, all mean road trouble, transportation advocates say.
"We could have done a lot more for transportation, and I hope we will in the future," said Rep. Jim Crawford, D-Granville, who helped write the budget. "I think people understand that the transportation budget is way behind, and there's some movement to try to fix that."
But there is no quick solution, lawmakers say.
The state estimates that road needs will exceed available funding by $65 billion over the next 25 years.
"We're going to be stuck in some deep potholes," said Beau Mills, chairman of transportation advocacy organization N.C. Go! "We're going to be stuck in some bad traffic before we get our arms around this problem."
Many legislators and the governor agree there was no consensus on transportation needs in this budget. They have eight months to think about it before the Legislature meets again.