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Tony Tata 2How does the leader of one of the nation’s largest transportation departments with 14,000 employees and a $4 billion budget find the time to be a prolific author of “thriller” novels and a regular military policy commentator for national media outlets? Are North Carolinians receiving adequate loyalty and dedication to the job for the $136,000 per year they pay him?

Today’s Weekly Briefing explores these questions.

Click here to check it out.

Commentary

Charlotte light rail.jpgThere are too many details to be fleshed out and examined to provide a definitive assessment of Governor McCrory’s new proposed state transportation plan that he unveiled yesterday.  For instance, the summary talks about expanding mass transit and building new light rail — both encouraging signs — but it’s too early to say whether these ideas are just polite nods in that direction or real signals of an intention to move away from paving the entire state, one new interstate lane at a time.

One thing that can be said for certain at first blush however is this: It’s encouraging to see the Governor talking optimistically about public investments for the common good. After almost nothing but right-wing bluster about slashing public structures (and the spending that supports them) in education, health care, environmental protection and several other important areas, it’s nice to hear the McCrroy administration at least admitting that public institutions and new investments have an important role to play in the state’s future.

Of course, the idea of investing in roads has always been the one area in which most conservatives have made an exception to their rules about the supposed evils of government.  So, it seems quite possible that the new DOT plan could just be a brief interlude in the ongoing assault on all things public. We’ll know more in the days ahead as the plan gets spelled out in more detail, but until then, we’ll try to maintain a little hope that, with the General Assembly out of town and Art Pope out of the budget office, McCrory has, at least temporarily, morphed back into his civic-boosting mayoral persona of old.

Falling Behind in NC, NC Budget and Tax Center

North Carolina’s transportation system helps form vital social and economic structures by connecting people to services, jobs, and other opportunities across the state and beyond. Although North Carolina has been known as the Good Roads State, its transportation system is under considerable pressure due to aging infrastructure, increasing demand, and declining revenue sources that are failing to keep pace with rising costs to maintain and improve the system.

Just last August, the North Carolina Department of Transportation confirmed that there is a large and growing gap between transportation needs and funding. They released a report estimating that the state is facing a $60 billion shortfall for transportation improvements through 2040, and that the state needs to come up with $32 billion just to keep the status quo. Ultimately, legislators control the purse strings as well as revenue options so solving this budget shortfall is largely up to them. Read More

Uncategorized

Just out from the NC Budget and Tax Center:

MEDIA RELEASE: Low-income North Carolinians’ needs must be at forefront of public transit plans
Plans should evaluate where low-income individuals – transit’s most reliable customers – live and work

RALEIGH (December 12, 2012) – The success of new and expanded transit in North Carolina will be largely dependent on how well the transit system retains and reaches its most reliable customers – low-income North Carolinians – according to a new report. Read More

NC Budget and Tax Center, Uncategorized

Do you hear that sound? It could be Charlotte’s plan for the Blue Line Extension coming to a screeching halt as a result of the Senate budget proposal for transportation, which would eliminate the Public Transportation Division’s New Starts & Regional Capital Grant Program and $29 million in state appropriations. New Starts is a grant program that allocates federal transportation resources for mass transit capital projects—such as light rail and bus rapid transit—and requires local and state matching appropriations. The proposal may cause Charlotte to lose out on $534.6 million in federal funding for the Blue Line Extension if state funds are not available to cover the required 25 percent match. Read More