The North Carolina Department of Transportation under Gov. Roy Cooper has become a money pit and state Transportation Secretary Jim Trogdon just keeps digging.
While administration officials say that expenses related to natural disasters are a major part of the DOT’s budget woes, an independent report found that only about a third of DOT’s “cash variance” could be attributed to natural disasters. The report found that a larger problem was fiscal mismanagement and an inability of central leadership to rein in overspending throughout the department.
The report also points out that the DOT’s increase in funding for fiscal year 2019 over its planned budget ($341 million, mostly in the form of federal disaster aid) was much greater than the department’s spending on disaster recovery ($246 million). Jim Trogden’s Department of Transportation cannot blame its current fiscal problems on hurricanes.
This is the same DOT leadership that “misinterpreted” a provision of the state budget to give massive raises to those working in the department, with some raises as large as 50 percent.
Rep. Chuck McGrady (R-Henderson) pointed out that the misappropriation further drained the DOT’s transportation funds:
“That’s taking money out of road building and bridge building, and transportation-related funding,” McGrady said. “It’s a $55 million issue in this first year of the two-year budget. If they do it again, it could be about $120 million.”
To put that in perspective, “Hurricane Jim” has cost the DOT more than Hurricane Dorian has.
The chronic fiscal mismanagement at DOT has caused state Treasurer Dale Folwell to call for changes in how the department is managed:
“The lack of oversight at NCDOT is outrageous. We endorse sustainable and predictable funding for transportation projects in North Carolina,” Folwell said.
Folwell also called for the Office of State Budget and Management to take over the NCDOT’s financial management.
“I have full confidence in the subject-matter experts at the Treasurer’s Office, all of whom are from the previous administration,” said Folwell. “They’ve been warning me for over a year that NCDOT was writing checks they can’t cash. I would put these subject-matter experts up against anyone, anytime, anywhere.”
(The “previous administration Folwell referred to was that of Democratic Treasurer Janet Cowell)
Fowell has also called on Gov. Cooper to replace Trogdon. That would be a good start; the mismanagement under Trogdon’s administration has done more damage to the Department of Transportation than any hurricane could.