Ferry toll increases delayed another year
Last month, the Republican-controlled Legislature passed the adjusted budget for the 2012-13 fiscal year that began July 1. It included provisions requiring the Ferry Division to increase fares on the Ocracoke-Cedar Island, Ocracoke-Swan Quarter and the Cape Fear River routes, and start charging tolls on the Pamlico River route.
The new budget went into law after the General Assembly approved an override of Perdue’s veto, and also included an exemption until July 2013 for the route on the Neuse River, while keeping the Hatteras Inlet and Currituck Sound runs toll-free.
Approved by lawmakers on July 3, this new law is a modification of a number of provisions included in the 2012-2013 state spending plan.
In the previous budget approved in the summer of 2011, tolls were to be implemented or increased on all routes except the Hatteras-Ocracoke and Currituck-Knotts Island ferries this past spring.
Governor Perdue issued an executive order in February that put a moratorium on the tolls plan until April 2013.
General Assembly leaders questioned the constitutionality of the order, and asked for a ruling by state Attorney General Roy Cooper.
Cooper’s office said the order should be ignored, but Perdue stood her ground and called on lawmakers to pass legislation to either overturn her order or change the ferry toll plan.
During the recently completed “short session”, the proposed FY 2013 budget once again included the tolls, while amendments were proposed by Sen. Stan White (D-Dare) to keep the fares out, but were voted down.
Rep. Tim Spear (D-Washington) also proposed two separate bills that would exempt the ferries from tolls, but those bills failed to win final approval.
The modification signed into law this week by Perdue orders the NCDOT Ferry Division not to collect increased ferry tolls until July 1, 2013.
The FY 2012-13 budget estimated the tolls would make up $4.5 million of the $43,538,132 allocation for Ferry Division operations.
The new law transfers to the Ferry Division a total of $4 million in “gap funds” originally set aside to pay for planning of the proposed mid-Currituck bridge between Corolla and the mainland, and the Garden Parkway in the Charlotte area.
Another $500,000 was pulled from the state’s general maintenance reserve fund.
The bill was given final approval by the state House on an 82-28 vote, with Rep. Spear and Rep. Bill Owens (D-Pasquotank) voting “yes”.
The Senate also voted in favor 34-2, including a “yes” vote from Sen. White.
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