Guest Column by N.C. Rep. Ric Killian
Special for South Charlotte Weekly
Editor’s note: N.C. Rep. Ric Killian represents House District 105 in south Charlotte.
No one in North Carolina seems satisfied with our transportation system or its funding structure.
Years of political decision making leave everyone feeling they are not getting their fair share. Our roads are in poor condition and we have some of the worst congestion in the nation. Politicians easily dismiss the problem as either a lack of resources or beyond their control.
Actually, we have enough resources. We just need to focus on problems, agree on a standard set of objective criteria to prioritize projects and start making decisions based on facts, not politics. We can reclaim our status as the “good roads state” by prioritizing safety and congestion relief with an objective set of metrics and the discipline to rely on these metrics instead of political influence.
First, let’s establish the fundamentals. Most of our state budget is referred to as the general fund. This year it is projected to be about $19 billion, and is primarily funded by income and sales tax. The transportation budget is about $4 billion, and is funded by the federal government, motor fuels tax, tag fees, etc. Currently, we only spend about $3 billion on our existing road system. Over the years, the transportation budget has become an easy target for politicians funding anything associated with transportation, from the N.C. Highway Patrol to the Leaking Underground Storage Tank Fund.
So, we must focus our resources on fixing our problems. The Joint Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation began this budget cycle declaring that everything is on the table, nothing is sacred and no one would exempt any of their own local projects from scrutiny (including passenger rail service between Charlotte and Raleigh). As a result, the proposed House transportation budget increases spending on road maintenance and construction by $670 million over the next two years. We scrutinized every area of the transportation budget in order to find efficiencies, eliminate preferential treatment in certain areas and reduce unnecessary transfers out of the Highway Fund and Highway Trust Fund.
Even better, we began the process of removing political decision making from transportation funding by removing the urban loop projects from the general statutes and placing them in the Mobility Fund. Simply put, we are reversing the trend of politicians getting projects in their districts by making a law. We are in the process of solidifying the evaluation criteria for Mobility Fund projects, so the Department of Transportation can make objective transportation funding decisions in the future.
While we recognize the need for all forms of transportation, the existing source of revenue does not allow us to be all things to all people. Within months, and for the next two years, citizens across the state will begin to see the results of this effort; and within time North Carolina will regain its status as the “good roads state.” With the establishment of objective transportation funding decision making, citizens will regain their trust in government.
That is good for all of North Carolina.
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