A federal stimulus package moving through Congress would give North Carolina about $900 million for new road, bridge and transit projects — and that’s just a few drops in a leaky bucket.
Dwindling receipts from gas and car sales taxes will cut state transportation revenues by $300 million a year for the next three years, state Transportation Secretary Gene Conti told a House-Senate oversight committee today.
“That $900 million from the federal government sounds great,” Conti said, “but ... you’re kind of just breaking even, if you want to look at it that way.”
Federal spending formulas would give North Carolina about $800 million for roads and bridges, $89 million for transit grants and around $11 million for rail and aviation, Conti said, adding that final numbers are not yet available.
North Carolina will be the nation's seventh-largest state by 2030. Legislators said the state deserves a bigger share of the $43 billion in transportation spending included in the federal stimulus package.
“This is just about two bridges to nowhere, and it doesn’t seem like it’s quite enough for this growing state,” said Sen. David Hoyle, a Gastonia Democrat who chairs the Senate Transportation Committee.
“It sounds almost like they’re dividing the money by 50 for each state,” said Sen. Richard Stevens, a Cary Republican. “Would Rhode Island get just as much as we do? It’s just a drop in the bucket when we’ve got $8 billion in projects waiting to go now.”
Brad Wilson, chairman of the statewide 21st Century Transportation Committee, said the federal package would not change his committee's recommended state and local tax hikes for transportation.
“Even with the money that we may receive from Washington,” Wilson told the committee, “we will still need new money.
"I've been asked many times, 'Well, isn't the new money from Washington gonna be sufficient?' It's gonna be nice to have. .. It's gonna be a little bit of influx. But it is not the magic bullet or our solution to the problems we face," he said.
The state is expected to fall at least $65 billion short of paying for its tranportation needs over the next 25 years. Wilson's committee issued a final report calling for new taxes, fees and bond issues to generate an additional $10 billion in the coming decade.
They include a hike in the tax on car sales (lower here than in
nearby states), local sales taxes for urban transit, and a gradual shift toward taxing drivers for every mile they drive.