North Carolina General Assembly this week will begin the negotiating
process on the two chambers’ differing versions of their respective
budgets, and ferry tolls and $150 priority passes are back in the
priority pass provision is in section 35.12.(b) (page 142) of the
35.12.(e) G.S. 136-82 is amended by adding a new subsection to read:
11 “(f2) Priority Boarding. – The Department of Transportation
may issue annual passes to individual passengers that entitle the
passengers to priority when boarding a ferry passenger vessel. The
Department of Transportation shall charge an annual fee of one
hundred fifty dollars ($150.00) for each pass issued under this
subsection. The fee would be in addition to any applicable ferry
toll. Proceeds from fees collected under this subsection shall be
credited and used in the same manner as toll proceeds under
subsection (d) of this section. Notwithstanding any other provision
of law, and except as authorized under this subsection or for
emergency vehicles responding to an emergency, the Department of
Transportation shall not provide priority boarding of a ferry
passenger vessel to any passenger or vehicle.
priority pass fee would become effective on July 1.
both budgets propose a $22.225 billion spending plan, the Senate’s
budget -- which
Sen Bill Cook,
representing Hatteras and Ocracoke in District 1, voted for --
eliminates the $13 million appropriation out of the Highway Fund for
replacement ferry vessels that the House’s budget included.
versions of the budget are available online at www.ncleg.net.
The different ways in which the two chambers would spend the total
dollars is in the first seven pages of each budget version.
Norman Sanderson had
introduced a bill–prior to the budget bill–that would eliminate
tolls on all ferries, and also appropriate $23 million to the Ferry
Division, neither of these items is in the Senate’s version of the
the Highway Fund section of this “money report,” so-called by
John Torbett (R-Gaston),
a co-chair of the House Transportation Committee, under the
“Intermodal Divisions,” the House proposes $13.010 million for
the Ferry Division and $4 million for public transportation.
the Senate version, of these same line-items, the Ferry Division
would get zero; public transportation, $4 million; aviation, $14.82
million, and rail would get $13.75 million.
release, Cook noted
his support of the “Senate version of the state budget, which cuts
taxes, controls the growth of government spending, bolsters the
state’s savings, and dramatically increases teacher pay – while
providing over $180 million to state employees in performance-based
pay increases or bonuses.”
Senate budget contains several coastal provisions, such as support
for aquaculture, beach nourishment, and shallow-draft dredging.
am against the priority pass provision pertinent to our ferries,”
Cook said in an email about the Senate budget.
Norman Sanderson and I have crafted legislation that would remove
mandatory tolls on the three N.C. Ferry routes that currently have a
fee. The legislation would also prevent a fee from being added to the
four routes that currently do not have a toll.”
Paul Tine (U-Kitty Hawk),
who in April introduced a bill to eliminate all ferry tolls and
appropriate money for replacement ferry vessels, said Friday that the
budgets are statements of priorities in each chamber and that he
expects to be named a conferee next week.
need to fix the ferry system,” he said. “We need enough money to
run the routes we have, and we have the extra money (for ferry
was referring to the close to $240 million surplus the state will
realize this year.
existing tolls aren’t going to get you enough revenue and the $150
(for priority passes) isn’t going to get us there,” Tine said
about the ferry tussle.
said that ferries are always a central disagreement between the House
we made (ferries) a priority and will continue to fight,” he said
about the House.
issue is the new way in which replacement car ferries, which cost
about $15 million each, are funded. A few years ago, the state put
this issue into local hands by dividing the state into 10 districts
and giving them each a pot of about $32 million with which to fund
all transportation needs within each district.
with funding new roads and bridges, the counties within each district
prioritize their needs. For Ocracoke’s area, replacement ferry
boats must compete with the needs of the other counties.
and Torbett have been arguing that the state should treat ferry
routes the same as highways and fund the equipment needed for them
out of the Highway Fund.
one of the sponsors of the House’s version of the transportation
section of the budget along with Tine, said Thursday that since he is
a co-chair of the House Transportation Committee he also expects to
be appointed a conferee.
can be just as tenacious as the next guy,” Torbett said about his
quest to stabilize ferry funding. “If they don’t want to hear
about ferries anymore then they can pass our plan.”
expenditures represent a 2.3 percent increase over the current fiscal
the House budget does not concur with the Senate’s version, they
will call a conference and appoint conferees to negotiate all the
sections of the budget, said Henri McClees, a lobbyist hired by Hyde
County to fight enacting or raising ferry tolls.
chamber has a different approach to what is funded, McClees said.
don’t agree on the ferries,” she said. “They did not take the
house plan. Tolls are still in Senate budget.”
both chambers agree teachers need raises, how these raises will be
given is different, she said, with the Senate giving the raises more
retirees would not get a cost-of-living increase under the Senate
plan, while the House wants to give them a 1.6 percent increase.
two budget have different sales tax approaches, she said.
to other news sources, the Senate’s bill makes up for a tax cut it
has included by expanding sales tax on services.
Torbett and McClees said that the senators most in favor of ferry
tolls are Bill
Wesley Meredith (R-Cumberland)
is okay with the House
plan, McClees said.
said islanders should write to all of the senators now about their
views on the budget.
whole Senate is working on the budget,” she said. “It’s very
important that other Senators become aware of this (ferry) problem.”
(This article is reprinted with
permission from The Ocracoke Observer. For more news and features
about Ocracoke, go to www.ocracokeobserver.com.)