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June 13, 2013
Willie Sutton, the 1950s bank robber, when asked, “Why do you rob banks?” replied, “Because that’s where the money is.” Willie would not be interested in our state’s ferry toll system.
One of the more frustrating aspects of the current ferry toll legislation is that it only addresses gross revenue. Imagine a small business that was only concerned with the inflow of money, with no regard to overhead. The reality is it costs a lot of money to take up the existing ferry tolls, and will cost much more if tolls are added to the two commuter ferries.
Last year the existing three ferry routes that charge tolls generated $2.1 million dollars in gross revenue. The labor and IT expense to collect that revenue was almost $1 million. That’s almost 50% overhead. Compare that to our highway tax that operates at around 6% overhead.
The commuter ferries, where relatively few people make many trips will have overhead expenses even higher. The projected labor expense alone for the Cherry Branch ferry that crosses the Neuse River is projected to be $244,000 a year. Overhead will likely exceed 75% of revenue.
Ferry ridership has dropped by over 130,000 vehicles since 2008. By the state’s own estimates, half of those vehicles were carrying tourists that generate on average, one hundred dollars of tax revenue per visit. Get those tourists back and it will add $6.5 million of tax revenue to the state coffers. The state will actually generate more revenue from having toll free ferries, than it will from collecting tolls.
I ask the General Assembly as it debates the ferry toll legislation to please keep your promises of reducing bureaucratic overhead, and freeing small businesses to prosper. Raise revenue by growing our economy, not by taxing people to go to work. Help eastern North Carolina, and get rid of all ferry tolls.