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Gov. Bev Perdue said today she will block new tolls on two free river ferries used by commuters, and rate increases on three ferries that collect tolls now, ordered by the legislature to take effect April 1. [2/29/12 update: see today's story with reader comments.]
"This new ferry tax -- which I have always opposed -- is both excessive and discriminatory," Perdue said in a news release. "It is unjust for the General Assembly to balance their budget on the backs of coastal working men and women."
Over the Democratic governor's veto, the Republican-led legislature passed a budget last year that included orders for the state Department of Transportation to start charging tolls on the free Neuse River and Pamlico River ferries used heavily by commuters who work at Cherry Point Marine Corps Air Station at Havelock, and the PotashCorp Aurora phosphate mine in Beaufort County.
The increased rates were ordered for two Pamlico Sound ferries that link Ocracoke to Swan Quarter and Cedar Island, and the Fort Fisher - Southport ferry across the Cape Fear River.
Perdue said she would issue an order stating that coastal North Carolina is recovering slowly from the recession and damage caused by Hurricane Irene last August. New tolls would impose an added burden on residents, she said.
Perdue said she will impose a 12-month moratorium on the new and increased tolls. Her order directsDOT to find enough spending reductions to make up for the revenue that the new tolls would have generated.
Perdue's news release acknowledged that the budget requires DOT to collect the tolls, but that state law (N.C. G.S. 136-82) gives DOT discretion over whether to collect them.