GOP legislative leaders were relentless last year in their determination to have passengers pay a bigger share of operating costs for the state ferry system. But since February, when Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue announced a moratorium on collecting new and increased tolls, Republicans have not been in any hurry to take action that would implement the tolls -- which were supposed to start April 1 -- quickly (see today's story with reader comments). [Update: Legislators back repeal of ferry tolls.]
The tolls were ordered in state budget legislation for five of the state's seven ferry routes, including two commuter ferries that have always operated without tolls. Republican legislators in coastal counties have heard more protest about the tolls than they expected, from voters who will decide whether to re-elect them this year.
Today the legislature's joint transportation oversight committee is scheduled to consider a proposal to postpone the new tolls for two years, giving coastal residents more time to recover from the effects of the recession and Hurricane Irene. Several Republicans expressed sympathy for the idea in a recent meeting before committee leaders cut off debate.
Republicans say it is up to Perdue to heed the advice of Democratic Attorney General Roy Cooper, who says she had no authority to block collection of the tolls.
But if Perdue declines to back down, Republicans face these options: ... [MORE]