Update to the post below: Today the state Senate killed an apparent bid to sneak around a law putting limits on transportation spending.
In a floor vote, according to news reports, House Bill 110 was defeated 44-1, according to news reports.
Apparently, the vote also means the idea cannot be snuck into another piece of legislation this year.
It’s good news for everyone hoping to keep state spending under control.
The original post:
Are some state legislators trying bypass a law meant to keep transportation spending under control?
Yesterday a Senate committee approved House Bill 110, DOT/DMV Changes – Megaproject Funding, which has already been passed by the House. The bill would create a fund to pay for really big road projects.
The problem is, HB110 would exempt these big road projects from the Strategic Transportation Investment (STI) plan, which caps transportation projects at $200 million.
Put into law several years ago, STI updated the Department of Transportation’s outdated and inefficient equity formula to allow for more prudent use of taxpayer dollars and lessen the impact of pork-barrel politics on road building and transit projects.
HB110’s proponents say STI’s $200 million project cap would hamper needed spending on big highway projects. To which conservatives say: Hip, hip, hooray!
HB110 does not – at this moment – contain any funding. It’s just a toolbox, proponents say.
But it’s a toolbox meant to be filled with more than $200 million — and maybe billions.
Conservatives might see HB110 as less of a toolbox and more a box of blank checks. History shows government spends whatever it is allowed to spend, and then some.
Sen. Kathy Harrington, R-Gaston, said in yesterday’s Senate Transportation Committee meeting that “this is the single worst piece of legislation I’ve seen in the years I’ve been here.” According to news reports, Harrington said STI was meant to reduce the impact of politics on transportation decisions. “This puts it right back in,” she said. “This goes right behind the back of the STI.”
Sens. Joyce Krawiec, R-Forsyth, and Wesley Meredith, R-Cumberland also voiced objections. When the bill came up for a voice vote, observers thought the “nays” outnumbered the “yeas.”
But it didn’t sound that way to Chairman Jim Davis, R-Macon, or so it appears, because he announced HB110 had passed.
It did move on to the Rules Committee, where bills often go to die. Still, it’s a disquieting incident. Some lawmakers may be trying to outflank a way to keep spending efficient and apolitical.
Conservatives might want to keep an eye on this measure. It might still squeak through, or mysteriously appear in some other form, stuck into the budget or into some other piece of legislation. Anything that puts a brake on spending must be defended.