Ocracokers win another round in keeping tolls off Hatteras Inlet ferry
By CONNIE LEINBACH
apparently won the fight to keep tolls off the Ocracoke-Hatteras ferry.
In the budget unveiled Tuesday, May 31, by the North Carolina
State Senate Appropriations Committee, exemptions for tolls for both
Ocracoke-Hatteras and the Currituck-Knotts Island ferries were written
into the transportation section of the budget.
The Senate will vote on the budget in the next two days, during which
some last-minute amendments may be added.
It will then go back to the House for concurrence, according to State
Sen. Stan White, who represents Hyde County, in addition to Pasquotank,
Tyrrell, Beaufort, Washington, Camden and Currituck counties.
“I think it’s over,’ he said Tuesday afternoon about the effort to
enact a toll on the only free transportation access islanders have.
The exemption was inserted by the Senate bill writers through
negotiations among the Senators and House members, including Rep. Bill
Owens and Rep. Tim Spear, who had successfully introduced an amendment
to the proposed House budget to change language which had called for
enacting tolls on all three of the state’s free ferries and raising
tolls on the tolled routes.
The current bill language is as follows:
The Department of 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
expedient. The Board of Transportation shall establish tolls for all
ferry routes, except for the Ocracoke/Hatteras Ferry 57 and the Knotts
Despite the good news for Ocracoke, it’s not a done deal yet.
But since this budget was negotiated with Democratic House members,
White is confident the House will concur with it. It then will go to
Gov. Bev Purdue who he expects to veto it, but not because of the
absence of ferry tolls to Ocracoke.
“It’s an overall bad budget,” White explained, since it cuts into crime
fighting, health and human services, and education over the next two
Rep. Tim Spear said in an interview Tuesday night that it’s a little
premature to talk about a veto or not because the final budget version
has not yet been passed.
“In some of these areas, the (funding) cuts are more than Perdue
wanted,” he said.
Perdue's proposed overall budget is $19.9 billion, Spear explained. The
Senate’s version is $19.6 billion, or a difference of $226 million.
The education part of the Senate’s budget proposes $10.9 billion, down
proposal of $11.2 billion, or a difference of about a $257 million.
Nevertheless, the Senate budget restores $300,000 to Hyde County
schools and funding for seven teaching positions at Ocracoke School to
retain a special allocation for small schools.
In addition, funding for the North Carolina Center for the Advancement
of Teaching, a teacher training program that has a building on
Ocracoke, was slashed to $3 million, from $6 million. The House version
of the budget had eliminated NCCAT funding entirely.
White said the Senate’s budget was formed on the elimination of the
temporary 1 percent sales tax added three years ago that ends July 1.
So, this revenue will be gone as Republican lawmakers make good on
their promises to repeal this tax enacted by Democrats three years ago,
Should Perdue veto the Legislature’s final budget, an override would
need support by all Republicans and five Democrats in the House, White
said. He said he has been assured that there are at least four
Democrats who would vote to over-ride.
Tom Pahl, an islander and member of an ad hoc committee formed to rally
against this toll and who has some experience in local government and
as a political organizer, praised the efforts of islanders who mustered
social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, blogs and websites, to rally
support and encourage hundreds of people, locally and afar, to write to
the legislators about this issue.
Mary Haggerty set up the Facebook page, “Say No to The Ferry Toll,” and
monitors it daily. Tom’s wife, Carol, managed a blog space where Tom
writes more detailed updates on the developing situation. Find it at
He stressed that this would not have happened without the efforts of
many islanders and others.
“A lot of hard work by a lot of people got this issue on the table,”
Tom said. “The Legislature is dealing with a lot of big issues but many
press stories also mentioned the Ocracoke ferry.”
He said that this massive effort to persuade legislators against
tolling the ferry--and for them to have listened--is democracy in
“Anyone who says government isn’t responsive says so because they
aren’t doing it themselves,” he said. “This is why people fight and die
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