May 23, 2013
Senate budget includes tolls on all
ferries—again – but not by July 1
By CATHERINE KOZAK
for the Hatteras-Ocracoke ferry are included in the proposed state
Senate bill, but another measure that would eliminate tolling for all
state ferry routes is still kicking around.
has resulted in a reprieve for the Cedar Island and Swan Quarter
routes, which were scheduled to have toll increases by July 1.
Thursday, the Senate’s $20.6 billion spending plan was sent to the
House, which is expected to introduce its version next week. Lawmakers
will then reconcile the versions and send a final budget to the
governor before the end of the fiscal year on June 30.
proposed Senate budget would instruct the state Department of
Transportation to start collecting tolls by Nov. 1 on all seven ferry
routes, including the currently free Hatteras-Ocracoke and Knotts
A compromise was worked out in the General
Assembly last year in which those two ferries were allowed to remain
untolled, and Republican state Sen. Bill Cook of Beaufort County said
he opposes the tolls on those two ferries in this budget.
the coastal counties, many of which are Tier I and II counties, the
ferry riders are mostly folks going to work,” Cook said in a statement.
“The river ferries are virtually all commuter traffic, including school
buses going to and from school, and folks going to the doctor’s office
or doing everyday shopping.”
Cook said he will continue to work to find alternative ways “to reduce this inequitable transportation burden.”
Bill 475, meanwhile, remains alive in a committee. The bill, which has
several sponsors including Rep. Paul Tine, D-Dare, seeks to fund the
ferries with advertisements on the vessels and other innovative revenue
The Ferry Division cannot implement the
authorized ferry toll increases until the budget process is resolved,
said state Department of Transportation spokesman Steve Abbott.
if the Senate bill is approved as is, he said, it would take time to
determine the amount of the Hatteras-Ocracoke ferry toll, and set up a
“We’re sort of in a wait and see pattern,” he said.
new funding formula for transportation projects, called the Strategic
Mobility Fund, will also not be implemented until it is approved and
signed, Abbott said.
But the program, which would replace the
general highway fund, has not been as controversial as the ferry
Abbott said that the Senate bill has removed the Mid-Currituck Bridge from consideration as a toll project.
significant impact in the Senate budget is the removal of any funding
for the North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching and
potentially the sale or transfer of the Ocracoke and Cullowhee
“We have lots of questions,” NCCAT executive director Elaine Franklin said on Thursday.
what she has been able to glean, it appears that the Senate bill is
looking to make the Cullowhee campus part of Western Carolina
University, which is located across the highway.
said it is yet to be determined what the state would do with the
Ocracoke campus, a renovated Coast Guard station which was opened in
“I’m not sure what they’re thinking,” she said.
state slashed NCCAT’s budget 50 percent in 2011, resulting in a loss of
more than 50 positions at both locations as well as most of the
Franklin said that she remains hopeful that the
lawmakers will see the value of the teacher support and training that
NCCAT provides for all the state’s educators, and that the final budget
will retain funding for the campuses.
The Senate bill would also:
- Raise fees by 25 percent for several commercial fishing licenses, fishing tournaments, and fishing vessel registrations.
- Change the blanket recreational fishing license to be available for the captain or the vessel, rather than just the vessel.
one year of the At Sea observer program. The Division of Marine
Fisheries would conduct three meetings with stakeholders to determine
ways to raise revenue to fund additional years of the program.
- Eliminate the oyster shell recycling program.
- Scale down the Coastal Resource Commission from 15 to 13 members. Of those, four members would be retained until July 2014.
- Reduce the CRC advisory council from 45 to 20 members. Terms of all current members would expire on June 30.
- Repeal the Clean Water Management Trust Fund.
- Eliminate all state funding for the Center for Rural Economic Development.