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Higher gas tax not likely, Berger aide says

Market forces will push North Carolina's record-high gas tax even higher in July --  unless political forces decide otherwise. 

Democrats were in charge four years ago when drivers were unhappy about rising gas taxes, so they capped the tax for two years at 29.9 cents a gallon.  That ceiling was converted to a legislative floor in 2009, and our inflation-adjusting tax has risen since then to an all-time high of 32.5 cents.

The General Assembly’s new Republican leaders seem likely to put a lid on it again.

“They have not specifically talked about this in caucus,” says Ray Martin, press secretary for Republican Sen. Phil Berger, the Senate president pro tem. “But it’s likely they’d want to look at capping any increase in the tax.” ... [MORE]

Senate blows off Perdue's Mobility Fund proposal and Yadkin River bridge fix

The state Senate quietly blew off one of the big items in Gov. Bev Perdue's proposed budget for 2010-11: $94.6 million for a new Mobility Fund that would help fix the I-85 Yadkin River bridge-and-bottleneck now and fix other unspecified transportation problems later.

Perdue had proposed to divert $22 million this year, and more in future years, from the dwindling yearly transfer from the Highway Trust Fund to the General Fund. And she wanted to produce another $74.6 million a year in new money by hiking some DMV fees -- mostly by increasing everybody's car registration fee from $28 to $35.

None of this was included in the budget moving through the state Senate this week.

Some transportation and urban advocates had cheered the idea, arguing that any increase in transportation spending was welcome.

But the Mobility Fund was vaguely explained from the start, and the ideas for how to spend it varied widely from one side of the capital to the other. ... [MORE]

Perdue taps two familiar sources for transportation money

Gov. Bev Perdue isn't ready to hike taxes to meet more of the state's transportation needs, but in her 2011 budget proposal she finds $94.6 million in "new" money from two sources the legislature has tapped in the past.

She proposes to hike Division of Motor Vehicles fees again ($74.6 million) to help establish the N.C. Mobility Fund for big transportation projects. (See today's story - some details were cut because of space limitations.)

And she cuts off another slice ($22 million) of the controversial transfer from the road-building Highway Trust Fund that, until a few years ago, was pumping $172 million a year into the non-transportation General Fund.

The annual registration fee for cars and light trucks will rise from $28 to $35 if the legislature adopts Perdue's recommendation. ... [MORE]

What about those raids on the Highway Trust Fund?

Carol Bumpass wants to hear the rest of the story. So do Marjorie Minor, Jon Barsanti and Bob Eby.

I reported last week ("Frugal drivers put road funds in peril") that DOT is hurtin' because of a decline in revenues from the gas tax and the highway use tax on car sales.  And that's because the high price of gas has forced us to cut our driving — and our taxed spending on gas and cars.

Meanwhile, the state is growing like crazy and roadbuilding costs have doubled in six years. We need more transportation money, not less.

"Why not so a similar article on how robbery of the state's highway [trust] fund by our government officials and legislators has put our road funds in peril?" Bumpass said by e-mail.

The yearly transfer from the Highway Trust Fund to the General Fund was established by law at $170 million in 1989.  It became a genuine raid in 2001 when Gov. Easley and the legislative Dems decided they needed more than that to balance the General Fund budget.

If you've been thinking that they repaid the extra $525 million they removed from the Highway Trust Fund over five years -- you're only 24 percent correct.

Read today's Road Worrier ("Where do gas taxes really go?") -- and do the math.

As Minor says:  

"This is money that they charged us for gas taxes. It’s supposed to be for roads. They keep taking it away.

"Then the DOT turns around and says, ‘Well, gee, we don’t have any money.’ And I wonder, ‘why not?’ 

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