People who want North Carolina to spend more money on its growing transportation needs face daunting challenges in finding sources for that money. Policymakers in Raleigh can raise the taxes that pay for infrastructure, such as the gas tax, at the risk of alienating many voters. Or they can cut money from other programs, such as health care for the poor. In a report last year, transportation officials said the state needs $122 billion over the next 25 years to fix roads and meet the needs of population growth. But they said there would be just $57 billion available, leaving a $65 billion hole.
Programs for the poor or roads? Well, if that were the choice, roads should prevail. But that’s not the choice at all. There are several things N.C. could do without raising transportation taxes:
>Use creative financing measures such as HOT lanes, Toll roads, and other public-private partnerships – that draw and allocate resources closer to the point-of-need.
>Stop building expensive projects in parts of the state that are LOSING population. (That means kill the Equity Distribution Formula that has resulted in the four-laning of everything).
>Break up the Board of Transportation to eliminate old boy projects and take away transportation slush funds.
>Devolve responsibility for roads to counties.
>Introduce more competitive bidding for projects.
>Use the Hartgen Strategy of 1)Projected Vehicle-Miles Traveled (PVMT), and 2) Anything below a certain PVMT should not get built. All such project funds should then be diverted to maintenance.
>Rural N.C. gets well-maintained roads; Urban N.C. gets more new roads which will track both revenues and need very nicely.
>STOP PUTTING RESOURCES INTO WASTEFUL BOONDOGGLES SUCH AS LIGHT RAIL.
Yes, entitlement reform is desperately needed and N.C. will have to find a way to contain costs. But N.C.’s transportation budget and financing mechanisms are adequate without additional taxes. The reform should come in better, more efficient ways of allocating resources, not from throwing more money into an obsolete and wasteful system. -Max Borders
(**NOTE: The Insider apparently republished an editorial in the Charlotte/News & Observer. Chris Hayes blogs about it above (great minds and all…))