by Sarah Curry
Director of Fiscal Policy Studies
McCrory signed legislation to enact a new gas tax rate. While the current gas tax was 37.5¢ per gallon and the new legislation drops it to 36¢, which is technically a decrease in the rate. What the headlines aren’t telling you is that without the new law, the gas tax would have dropped to 29-28¢ in July due to falling gasoline prices.
Even the left knows this is smoke and mirrors policy. The Progressive Pulse, the left’s NC Policy Watch, blogged yesterday stating the same thing. So if both sides of the aisle are against this, why did the legislation become law?
The truth, lawmakers have not been good stewards of the transportation dollars. They need more money and this is how they can do it without being fully accountable to taxpayers.
The Dept. of Transportation is funded through an enterprise system, a self-balancing set of accounts, segregated for a specific purpose in accordance with laws and regulations. The state’s Highway Fund and Highway Trust fund operate in this way – hypothetically. Over the years, money has been removed from these two funds to pay for non-transportation expenses. Last year, over $300 million was transferred out of the highway funds for non-transportation purposes such as positions in the Governor’s office, training on Breathalyzer tests, and inmate labor custody.
So instead of changing the gas tax, why not stop transferring money out of the highway fund for non-transportation purposes? In addition to spending on non-transportation activities, last year’s state budget said DOT was to eliminate 500 full-time positions. Those positions still exist and have not been eliminated. When the state law instructs an agency to cut positions, they should follow the law. Now we have a case of where an increase in the gas tax is going to fund positions that should not exist in the first place – that’s not what I call a good use of taxpayer dollars. Lawmakers should have taken a serious look at how the Transportation funds are managed instead of throwing more money at a broken system.