Bruce Siceloff details some of the "raids" by the General Assembly of road money over the years. But his story is not only incomplete, he eventually shrugs the mismanagement off, claiming basically it’s a drop-in-the-bucket compared to what we need going forward. First consider this passage:
They grabbed another $125 million in 2002. But they called this a loan, and they reimbursed the Highway Trust Fund in 2006.
These days, pundits and press accounts frequently say that the extra money taken from the Highway Trust Fund was repaid.
But most of it never was. The only money paid back was the $125 million "loan."
The other $400 million, moved to the General Fund between 2001 and 2005, never came back to the Highway Trust Fund.
Fine. But what about the hundreds-of-millions ($650 million in 2002, and $750 million for N.C. Moving Ahead)taken away from highway construction and spent on non-construction transportation projects for which the Highway Trust Fund was intended? Isn’t this raiding, too? Did Fiscal Research mention that these "loans" were "paid back" with proceeds from the sale of $750 million of a $900 million 1996 road bond? You know: a product of a referendum by the people of the state — that should have gone to accelerating road construction not to paying back "loans" taken for pet projects of the Governor? With creative financing, the Governor and General Assembly took money out of one pocket and put it into the other–defying the will of the people and telling us "we’re square" at the same time. Maybe Siceloff should call Fiscal Research back.
While being candid about the HTF raids for the General Fund, Siceloff takes a ho-hum attitude about the mismanagement of taxpayer dollars, despite not giving us (or getting) the full story, saying: "It’s hard to call that a raid, but some people do" and "This money was spent for other stuff our legislature decided we needed. We won’t see it again." Nice. Raiding has become a question of degree. The decisions of political elites is never legislative caprice.
Maybe Siceloff thinks balancing bad budgets, bribing Google and sinking mental health are more important expenditures than road infrastructure; but hundreds of millions of dollars in what is, at best, poor stewardship and, at worst, government money-laundering ought to give the ‘Road Worrier’ more than just a shoulder shrug. What’s a couple billion dollars here-and-there when we’re short tens of billions? I hope his readers can make up their own minds.