News: Quick Takes

House transportation budget maintains emphasis on priority projects

The N.C. House, as lawmakers began reviewing the budget May 1, supported a sprawling transportation budget, allocating $2.3 billion for North Carolina’s Highway Fund, and $1.6 billion for the state’s Highway Trust Fund for fiscal year 2019-20.  

Spending for the Highway Fund is up $156 million. The Highway Trust Fund, which is mainly used for construction projects, is up $50 million over last year’s budget.

Overall, the budget emphasizes low-cost, high impact construction projects, pushes for more study of aerospace technology, and allocates money to resurface municipal streets.

Some more contentious portions of the House’s budget, included in earlier proposals, apparently were booted from the legislation. For example, the budget originally including a 7% tax on “transportation network companies” like Uber and Lyft. The bill also specified increases in registration fees for owners of hybrid and electric vehicles. Those portions are repealed in a separate section of the budget.   

Airports would get serious attention under an “airport improvement program,” a study to collect a list of needed improvements at any “publicly owned, commercial service airport with more than 10,000 passenger boardings” over two years.

Notably, the budget also plans for the N.C. Department of Motor Vehicles’ pending move from Raleigh to Rocky Mount, with funding for the DMV’s relocation and lease. The budget allocates $1.2 million recurring and $5.6 million non-recurring for 2019-2020, with $2.5 million recurring in 2020-21.

The move has been controversial for Raleigh-based workers, but legislative leaders and Gov. Roy Cooper support it.

Some other highlights include:

Additional funds to resurface streets: $14.7 million recurring in 2019-20 and $29.5 million recurring in 2020-21, 80% of which are to be used by municipalities to resurface streets “within the corporate limit of the municipality.”

Dashboard to track number of hybrid and electric vehicles: The DMV would expand its “performance dashboard” on the department’s website to track information about the number of hybrid and electric vehicle registrations in the state.