In a statement this evening, Sen. Bill Cook explained why he opposes a 1/4-cent sales tax without a referendum that has been requested by the Dare County Board of Commissioners to pay for dredging of the county’s inlets.
At the board’s request, Rep. Paul Tine introduced the bill, House Bill 388, in late March. It passed the House in a matter of days, but has been stalled in a Senate committee.
Cook notes in his statement that Dare County already has the authority to raise the sales tax — with a referendum.
“No other county in the state of North Carolina has been exempt from the referendum (vote of the public) requirement of Article 46,” Cook said in the statement. “The authority was given to all 100 counties at the same time in 2007. Since then, 29 counties have enacted that authority with voter approval referendums.”
The senator said that “it was expressed to us that about $3 million could be appropriated out of the 2 percent for beach nourishment within the occupancy tax for waterway maintenance, and it would not disable any of the future or previous beach nourishment projects.”
He noted that the “the number one industry out of Oregon Inlet is recreational fishing,” and says that those visitors who fish are paying into the occupancy tax.
“Therefore, in the meantime, I believe we need to use the occupancy tax and continue to discuss this issue with the (U.S. Army) Corps and see if the proposed dredging plan from the Corps will be adequate enough to keep the inlet open.”
That, he said, is his solution in the short-term for Oregon Inlet. But, he added that the county and the state also need to focus on the long-term solutions for their inlets.
“The proposed budget from the Senate provides additional appropriations to the Shallow Draft Inlet Dredging Fund, total estimated funding in FY 2015-16 is at $20 million,” Cook said. “It reserves up to $4 million of that fund for Oregon Inlet dredging needs, while also appropriating $900,000 to the Department of Administration so they can begin the necessary requirements on a long term solution at Oregon Inlet.”
In addition, Cook said that Hatteras Inlet has been included in the list of possible inlets that could be covered by the fund.
Cook also noted that at this point, there is no official commitment from the Corps of Engineers on how long a dredge will remain at Oregon Inlet.