State Senate pushing for ferry toll at Hatteras Inlet
By CONNIE LEINBACH
have geared up for a continued fight with the state legislature.
The North Carolina Senate on Tuesday released its version of the
budget, which has the tolls on all ferry routes re-inserted.
Earlier in May, the state House passed its version of the budget, which
included an amendment by Rep. Timothy Spear to exclude the
Ocracoke-Hatteras ferry from being tolled.
The Senate’s budget did not include the amendment and included tolls on
all ferry routes in the state.
An ad hoc committee on the island is planning a trip for early June to
visit legislators to educate them on the unique nature of the island,
which is not accessible by any highway but only by boat or airplane.
“It’s not time to despair,” noted Tom Pahl, a member of the committee
which has been strategizing to fight the tolls.
But islanders must continue contacting legislators, he said, as this is
part of the give-and-take that goes on with these budget negotiations.
According to Bob Phillips, executive director of Common Cause, a lobby
group, the Senate will spend the week debating the proposal and aim to
take a final vote by Tuesday of next week.
“Then the Senate budget bill will be sent to the House for
concurrence,” Phillips explained. “The House will vote not to
concur, and the whole thing will go to a joint legislative
conference committee where the differences in the two budgets are
Phillips spoke as a friend of the island.
Usually, that conference committee is composed of three senior leaders
of both houses, noted Pahl.
New amendments must be introduced by noon today, according to Darlene
Styron, a Hyde County commissioner from Ocracoke, who has been in
contact with Sen. Stan White, who represents Hyde County.
No action had been confirmed as of late this morning.
Interested persons can stay current on the “Say No to Ferry Tolls”
Facebook page, which was set up and is regularly updated by islander
Mary Haggerty. Facebook and other social media have been
instrumental in mustering supporters to contact legislators about this
As to the issue of ferry tolls, business owners on Ocracoke believe
enacting tolls on the Hatteras-Ocracoke ferry and raising rates on the
tolled routes will be devastating to the island.
“All those (sales) tax dollars will go down,” noted Tommy Hutcherson,
owner of The Variety Store, one of two small groceries on the island.
“Their business model of reducing service and increasing prices will
not increase our sales tax base,” said Rufus Keel, owner of the
Sunglass Shop. “It didn’t work for the U.S. Postal Service and it’s not
gonna work for the NC Department of Transportation.”
Bob Ray, co-owner of The Secret Garden gift shop, was more dire.
“We’ll die,” he said. “The whole island will die.”
The Senate Budget proposal language establishing tolls on all ferry
routes is as follows:
DIVISION TOLLING ON ALL ROUTES
Effective April 1, 2012, G.S. 136-82 reads as rewritten:
Transportation to establish and maintain ferries.
Transportation is vested with authority to provide for the
establishment and maintenance of ferries connecting the parts of the
state highway system, whenever in its discretion the public good may so
require, and to prescribe and collect such tolls therefore as may, in
the discretion of the Department of Transportation, be expedient. The
Board of Transportation shall establish tolls for all ferry routes.”
Other noteworthy action in both House and Senate budget bills is the
de-funding of the North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching
(NCCAT). The plan is to provide a one-time appropriation for
upkeep of the building until it can be “conveyed to other entities.”
The language in the Senate bill “eliminates State support for the
ongoing operations of this NR teacher professional development
provider. $500,000 in nonrecurring support is provided for the upkeep
of the two NCCAT facilities until they are conveyed to other entities.”
Ocracoke has an NCCAT building near the ferry docks. Teachers
to the island from all over the state to participate in programs with
the concurrent bonus of teaching them about this furthermost barrier
island on the Outer Banks.
Click here to read the text of the
bill (ferry tolls on page 362): Proposed Senate Committee Substitute
for House Bill 200, Appropriations Act of 2011, Distributed to Senate
Appropriations subcommittees on 05/24/2011
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