Loading...
BYH, watching this administration is like watching a mob movie....

It’s time to stop kicking the can down the road

Tom Campbell.jpg
Loading…

Saturday, September 21, 2019

At almost the same moment our state was boasting of a $900 million cash surplus, one important sector of state government was encountering serious shortfalls. Lawmakers should address the funding problems with the N.C. Department of Transportation before considering refunds to taxpayers or other options.

Last winter DOT Secretary Jim Trogden warned there were financial problems that would delay several projects in the Transportation Improvement Plan. He attributed the problems to underestimated project projections, specifically listing increased costs to purchase land and increased costs of materials and labor increases.

That warning turned into a red flag signaling big troubles, with some 900 road projects postponed and layoffs of as many as 1,000 contract and temporary employees to meet projected shortfalls.

There are two budget-busters. The first is more than $300 million spent last year for cleanup and repairs resulting from Hurricanes Matthew and Florence, along with rockslides, snowstorms and other extreme weather events. From 2004 to 2016 the average expended from the operations and maintenance budget for such events was $65 million annually, but as our state encounters more frequent extreme weather those numbers continue escalating.

The other factor involves some $300 million spent last year in MAP Act lawsuit settlements. The MAP Act was an ill-conceived scheme to delay paying for highway land purchases. Enacted in 1987, DOT was allowed to freeze development on private properties within future highway corridors; property owners were unable to either develop their property or, practically, sell it.

Understandably, they took the state to court and the state Supreme Court agreed these were illegal takings of private property by the government. The settlement totals could be as much as $1 billion.

These two issues are symptomatic of a larger problem. Believe it or not, our $5 billion annual DOT budget isn’t sufficient for a large state with many miles of paved roads. The principle source of revenue has been state and federal gas taxes, but more fuel-efficient vehicles, more vehicles powered by electricity and lower gas prices at the pump have combined to yield declining revenues at a time our state is growing by some 100,000 people per year and traffic congestion is an increasing condition.

Secretary Trogden has repeatedly told us North Carolina needs to re-think the way we fund transportation. We’ve enjoyed a recent spike in funding from GARVEE bonds (Grant Anticipation Revenue Vehicles), borrowing tomorrow’s anticipated future federal transportation receipts to use for road construction projects today, but this isn’t a lasting solution.

Some suggestions: First, stop robbing the department’s routine operations and maintenance funds for severe events like hurricanes, floods, snow and ice storms and rockslides. The Rainy Day fund was established for such emergencies.

Next, let’s agree that those who use our roads should pay for them. Our gas taxes are among the highest in the Southeast; raising them more isn’t ideal. Higher vehicle sales taxes, license fees and Vehicle Miles Traveled taxes are potential sources but will likely need to be combined with other revenues.

To meet our state’s current transportation needs we need more money. Now we can pay for roads through a large multi-billion dollar road bond package, we can dramatically increase current taxes and fees or we can start imposing tolls on roads. Choose your poison, but we’ve needed to address this problem for decades and it’s time to stop kicking the can down underfunded roads.

Tom Campbell is former assistant state treasurer and creator and host of NC SPIN at 7:30 p.m. Friday and 12:30 p.m. Sunday on UNC-TV. Contact him at www.ncspin.com.

Loading…

Humans of Greenville

@HumansofGville

Local photographer Joe Pellegrino explores Greenville to create a photographic census of its people.

Op Ed

September 21, 2019

At almost the same moment our state was boasting of a $900 million cash surplus, one important sector of state government was encountering serious shortfalls. Lawmakers should address the funding problems with the N.C. Department of Transportation before considering refunds to taxpayers or other…

Tom Campbell.jpg

September 05, 2019

The year was 1990. While serving as pastor of a church in Greensboro, I became involved in a ministry to the most vulnerable.

At the time, North Carolina was at the top of the list when it came to infant mortality. Politicians who ran a strong anti-abortion campaign in the name of…

011616bobhudak.1.jpg-1

August 25, 2019

The travel and tourism industry is one of the most mid-understood industries across our nation despite its huge contribution to the national economy.

The United States Travel Association reported that $1.1 trillion was spent by travelers to the U.S. in 2018, resulting in a $2.5 trillion output…

071616GuestColumnSchmidtPic

August 24, 2019

As North Carolina teachers start to return to classrooms, they will undoubtedly have a lot on their minds to prepare for a new academic year. Fortunately, they will no longer have to worry about the status of their in-network health care coverage for 2020 under the State Health Plan.

Thanks to the…

0918SteveLawler_0_0.jpg-1

August 24, 2019

If you come to the end of the year and you’ve got surplus money in the bank what do you do? This seldom happens in most homes, but would you spend it? Save it? Or, with a government, would you return some of it to the people who sent it? That’s the option Senate President Pro Tem Phil…

August 21, 2019

For many parents, August is a month of both pride and tears. Pride because their teenager is taking that big educational step and tears because for many it's the beginning of an empty nest. Yet, there's a going-away-to-college question that far too few parents ask or even contemplate: What will my…

Walter Williams

August 18, 2019

I have had the distinct honor and privilege of leading the Greenville VA Health Care Center as the Administrator and Associate Administrator since November 2016.

Over the past two and a half years, I have enjoyed working all of the veterans and staff members as we grew together, overcame obstacles,…

Forte.jpg

July 23, 2019

Since being sworn in January, I have been working hard to help the people I represent in Lenoir and Pitt counties — and the biggest opportunity to do this has been through the state budget. I’ve talked with elected officials, educators, administrators, nonprofits, business owners,…

121718chrishumphrey

July 12, 2019

Over the past three years, I have had the good fortune to work on a project that has the potential to transform the farming landscape in eastern North Carolina, one that involves harnessing gas produced from hog waste.

As CEO and founder of OptimaBio, our work with Smithfield Foods to capture…

Maloney

July 01, 2019

The American system of checks and balances government does not work the way most people think it does or the way the Founding Fathers said it would.

The president serves at the pleasure of Congress, just as the prime minister of the UK serves at the pleasure of Parliament, which means that the…

eleanorclift.jpg.jpg
11 stories in Op Ed. Viewing 1 through 10.
«First Page   «Previous Page        
Page 1 of 2
        Next Page»   Last Page»