The North Carolina General Assembly closed up shop for the
year last week without reaching agreement on a plan to set aside extra money to
help pay for toll roads throughout the state.
House lawmakers balked at a Senate-approved plan that would
have required most drivers to pay $8 more per year for their vehicle
registration stickers. The increase would have added $30 million this fiscal
year for the North Carolina Turnpike Authority. The added funds would have
reached $52 million annually each of the next four fiscal years.
The money would have been used to leverage revenue bonds for
toll road projects.
Instead, the House voted in favor of a bill - SB1352 - on
the final work day of the year that would have given the Turnpike Authority $20
million, but the Senate never considered it.
The added revenue would have been a shot in the arm for
advocates of toll roads in the state. It is estimated to cost about $50 million
per mile to build an interstate, the News
& Record in Greensboro, NC, reported.
The turnpike authority has its eye on seven projects
throughout the state. From that list, the project most likely to be completed
first is a proposed toll road in western Wake County.
Supporters of the bill said something needs to be done
because the cost of building roads has soared in recent years. They cite
soaring costs for construction materials, including asphalt.
Opponents of the fee increase said before reaching deeper
into the pockets of taxpayers the state would be better served to stop the
practice of dipping into the highway trust fund and rerouting money generated
from fuel taxes to other budgets.
To view other legislative activities of interest for North
Carolina in 2007, click here.
– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor