Traffic

Committee suggests new taxes, fees for road needs

Posted November 19, 2008 4:01 p.m. EST
Updated December 10, 2008 12:47 p.m. EST

— North Carolina motorists could pay a fee for the number of miles they travel in a year if the General Assembly were to approve a funding proposal for new revenue to help pay for state road projects.

It's one of several options that the state's 21st Century Transportation Committee will likely recommend to state lawmakers next month.

The transportation committee, charged by the governor to find ways to support fixing and maintaining roads, wants to raise $1 billion a year for the next 10 years for projects.

"It's going to require new revenue, not just a reallocation of current revenue because of the demands that are being placed on our transportation infrastructure," committee Chairman Brad Wilson said.

Others sources of revenue on the table 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.

But Rep. Nelson Cole, D-Rockingham, who sits on the committee, said it will be difficult to get the Legislature to support such taxes in a bad economic climate next year.

"While we'd love to embrace some of them, I don't see many going to the Legislature," Cole said. "I doubt if they'll even be introduced.

The vehicle miles-traveled fee would charge motorists a quarter-cent to a half-cent per mile for passenger vehicle travel and would generate up to an estimated $330 million annually.

For an average driver, that would be anywhere from $25 to $50 annual fee.

The state Department of Transportation is projecting an 11 percent to 12 percent budget shortfall for the next fiscal year, and officials said last week that a $900 million to $1 billion shortfall is possible in the state's three-year spending plan.

The transportation committee must now put together a formal proposal before presenting it to the General Assembly next month.