House budget leaders are beginning to release pieces of their budget proposal for the 2017 fiscal year that begins July 1st. Budget subcommittees are meeting today to go over their respective proposals, with the opportunity for subcommittee members to put forward amendments. House leadership is not expected to release their full budget and tax package until next week.
But we know that the House and Senate leadership already set a General Fund budget target at a little over $22 billion—which is less than the governor’s. They used a flawed formula to set this budget target without basis in economic realities or the needs of our communities.
Summary of the House Transportation Budget proposal
The state’s transportation system helps form vital social and economic structures by connecting people to services, businesses, and other opportunities across North Carolina—especially those who are transit-dependent and living in rural areas where there has been little job growth since the economic downturn.
The transportation budget is not supported by the General Fund. Rather it is supported by revenue from the Highway Fund and Highway Trust Fund, which are fed by the state’s gas tax, highway use tax, and Division of Motor Vehicle fees.
Here are key items in the House Transportation Budget:
• Repeals the “Light Rail Funding Cap” that lawmakers enacted last year. The cap limits state spending on light rail projects at $500,000, the Strategic Transportation Investments (STI) law that awards funding based on a data-driven process (which already favors roads over transit expansion). This cap affects planned projects in the state’s major cities.
• Provides an additional $32 million to the STI program.
• Keeps in place late fees for car owners who allow their DMV registration to expire—those fees range from $15 if registration has been expired for less than one month up to $25 if the period extends beyond two months. Under current law, those late fees would sunset in December 2017.
• Provides an additional $2 million for the state’s rural transit system and another $2 million for the state’s urban transit system.
• Provides $13.4 million to update and modernize the state’s ferry system. Now the ferry system would not compete under STI but would instead get a direct appropriation.
• Provides a one-time $1 million appropriation for an advertising and public outreach campaign to lift up DMV modernization initiatives.
• Provides $2.9 million to expand contracted staff that review driver licenses at the DMV.
• Provides $1.7 million in recurring funding and $151,900 in nonrecurring funding to hire additional employees who would be tasked with implementing reform initiatives at the DMV Medical Review Program. This program is responsible for gathering and evaluating medical information of drivers who have medical conditions that could affect safety on the state’s roads.
• Provides $17.9 million to support the general maintenance of roads and another $17.9 million to support the maintenance of secondary roads.
• Provides $9 million to support inmate litter collection and road cleanup efforts.