Opinion: Daily Journal

TransPark Nearing End

RALEIGH – I hope I am not premature in noting that the General Assembly is slowly but surely phasing out state funding for the pathetic Global TransPark project near Kinston.

If you are a regular Carolina Journal, then you are probably well aware of flaws inherent in the project, started by former Republican Gov. Jim Martin and enthusiastically carried forward by his Democratic successors, Jim Hunt and Mike Easley. The taxpayers of North Carolina have spent tens of millions of dollars building a large airstrip at the old Kinston Jetport and an educational facility alongside. Federal dollars (ours, with a brief detour through Washington so the politicians there could take a shipping and handling charge) have also been squandered on it.

In the House version of a revised FY 2002-03 General Fund budget, lawmakers eliminated $577,000 in annual operating funds and $566,000 in runway-development funds. On the Highway Fund side – that is, dollars come from gas and car taxes rather than general revenues – the project lost another $619,000 but was extended a parting gift of $1.6 million in nonrecurring funds. The clear intent by these Democratic House members is to end support sooner rather than later.

The TransPark has already been cut down from what it used to get on an annual basis, so this is a pretty clear signal that local taxpayers or private industry will need to step forward to make whatever use of the facility makes sense at this point.

One troubling development, however, is on the executive branch side. On Tuesday, the Council of State, made up of the governor and other elected executives, approved a costly land purchase for the TransPark and indicated that there might be other purchases in the offing. Presumably the money is not coming from state taxpayers, but still there is a need for vigilance to ensure that the project doesn’t try to stay on state life support.