Raleigh setting us up for ONE MORE hit to the wallet? (ahem, TOLL ROADS.)

pat sideWe  got hit with headlines this week suggesting that roadwork across the state could grind to a halt very soon –thanks to the Federal Highway Trust Fund running out of money:

[…]

“We’re going to have to stop writing checks in July or August this year if the federal government does not reauthorize the transportation law,” said state Transportation Secretary Tony Tata. He shared the stage with McCrory at the conference sponsored by the N.C. Chamber, a statewide business lobby group.

[…]

In past years, Congress set long-term priorities with legislation that governed transportation spending for five years at a time, enabling the states to plan their own spending several years into the future. Federal transportation funds are dwindling because of flat collections from a fuel tax rate unchanged since 1993. Congress has not signaled interest in increasing the gas tax or finding new transportation revenue sources.gasprices

Nick Tennyson, Tata’s chief deputy secretary, worried that Congress might agree on just a stopgap measure to continue transportation funding for another six months.

“When we get a new act, we need to know that it is both going to be sustainable and will increase funding,” Tennyson told the group. “We’re going to need the Congress to hear from more than just DOTs and road-builders. They need to hear from people who use highways and all the other modes of transportation.”

The N.C. Chamber and 30 other state chambers of commerce signed a letter dated Tuesday asking House and Senate leaders to authorize transportation spending for five more years, in new legislation that would protect the solvency of the federal Highway Trust Fund and give states flexibility in how they make transportation improvements.

[…]

The state DOT relies on combined state and federal gas taxes for 70 percent of its transportation money. Just as the gas tax has grown weaker as automobile fuel efficiency grows stronger, the state’s second-biggest transportation source – the highway use tax on car sales – also is being undermined by a changing economy.

“A Changing Economy”?  Are they perhaps referring to the economic collapse brought on by intensive statist P1-BF354B_GASOL_G_20120316191511meddling that has knocked millions out of work and shrunk levels of disposable income in just as many households? Just asking. 

Highway use tax collections plunged by one-third during the 2009 recession, but they have recovered partially as car sales increase again. Now, though, North Carolinians are buying cars that are less expensive and more fuel-efficient, and they wait longer than before – 11 years on average – to replace them with new cars.

McCrory and Tata said North Carolina will have to find new ways to pay for its transportation needs, but they weren’t ready to suggest new taxes or other revenue sources. First, they plan to offer new projections on how much money the state will need for long-term transportation improvements, as part of a 25-year plan to be released by DOT later this year.

That cost figure is expected to be billions of dollars more than the state now can hope to collect from current state and federal revenue streams.

“We’re going to need to make that investment beyond what we currently do, and that is very clear,” Tata said. “We’ve got some issues that are going to require some money to get through.”pay

Pressed by one audience member to reveal his thinking on new transportation taxes, McCrory demurred.

“We’re not going to leak anything to you at this point in time,” he said.

In politicalspeak, this is basically laying the groundwork for something like public-private partnerships and toll roads.  You know, the stuff that Thom Tillis is currently cramming down the throats of his constituents. 

Even with the paltry cap the legislature just passed, we still have the highest gas tax in the southeastern US, and one of the highest in the country.  We hear a lot about this alleged tighter, more conservative state budget, while reports of exorbitant spending outside of the general fund are leaking out. 

We’ve got an exorbitant tax in place to hit drug dealers.  Where does that money go?  We’ve got a state highway trust fund that, for years, legislators have been raiding to pay for their pork projects.

State leaders are making the claim that revenue from the gas tax is way down — thanks to the growing usage of more-fuel efficient vehicles.  How does that wash with the dramatic growth in population North Carolina has been experiencing in recent years?  Individuals may be buying less gas, but we are rapidly gaining MORE buyers.  That has to count for something.

We’ve still got a heck of a lot of people out of work and struggling to make ends meet.  State leaders need to tighten their own belts firstlike most of us are —  before trying to squeeze MORE out of us.

4 thoughts on “Raleigh setting us up for ONE MORE hit to the wallet? (ahem, TOLL ROADS.)

  1. And here I was thinking that the small government people and libertarians would favor private roads and a pay to ride plan.

    I thought those who support the Constitution would like to see the government out of the roads business just like the government should be out of the healthcare business.

    Aren’t toll roads similar to Rand Pauls “Economic Freedom Zones?”

  2. Surely, there’s a decrement list of highway projects that can be deferred or cancelled … make-work projects similar to the widening of Rt 211 come to mind. Before we start eating taxes to finance more highway boondoggles (Rt 211 again) I want to see a prioritized, integrated ‘transportation needs’ listing with costs and the funding cut-off point, given realities of the new economy brought to us complements the Obama Administration and its NC apparatchiks.

  3. The problem with toll roads is not about pay per use. I it would be acceptable to most “small government types” and “libertarians” if we didn’t already pay for the road in the taxes currently collected. The suggestion by some that certain types only favor big government when it benefits them just doesn’t hold water. No one denies the need to pay for roads, or other essential services best provided by government, when authorized, but the fact that, like the lottery, the collection of existing “highway” taxes will continue with the additional money providing for the diversion of tax dollars to other non-highway projects with the politicians for ever crying they are short on funds.

    No, I don’t buy this garbage about federal dependence and the State needs to get it’s spending in order and yes, cancel some projects. The legacy cronyism of highway projects is astounding. Rocky Mount is a prime example of highway money being spent after years in the planning, when it really could be deferred. The roads are nice and demand will ultimately meet the serviceability of the roads but it could have been put off with the money better spent where there is serious need. Roads are not necessarily planned to meet demand but are often built and the demand comes with development. Not even going to touch on the special interest involvement. Look at many new bypass roads – little traffic, little time savings, and no development. Look again in 5 or 10 years and the roads are busy with the development that has taken place while another area of the city slowly dies. There are many issues with highways and development for which there isn’t room to discuss but the one factor here is excessive spending, waste, and the burden of a huge bureaucracy that can’t even get a count on the number of vehicles it owns. How can we expect honest dealings when a state that can keep up with your tax payments, inspections, and tags can’t even keep up with their own?

    Tolls are simply a marketing means to increase taxes while denying that it’s a tax increase.

    Seems that many big government types and liberals are all in favor of toll roads and letting the users pay for them but scream bloody murder when we suggest doing away with property taxes and letting the users pay for their children’s schools through a share of sales taxes.

  4. States have become wards of the federal government. Is NC still supporting Common Communism?

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