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June 13, 2014
The NC House is working on a budget that would remove tolls from all NC ferries. That’s a 180 degree turnaround, after the legislature in 2012 passed a bill requiring tolling on previously untolled ferries. Keeping tolls off ferries is a subject Greg Piner has worked a lot on. He writes in:North Carolina can generate far more revenue from the tax dollars that come from tourists that ride the ferries, than from tolling. For many reasons the ferry ridership has fallen significantly since the peak year of 1,100,000 vehicles in FY 00-01. The most recent Ferry Division records show that FY 12-13, was the lowest vehicle count in the last 15 years (834,000 vehicles, (a 25% reduction from the peak) The Cedar Island/Ocracoke run had a staggering 50% reduction from the peak year.
I think most people would agree that adding or increasing tolls as ridership is falling would create a death spiral.
On the bright side if the General Assembly eliminated tolls and the ridership bounced back up to the peak years, the state would reap huge tax dollars.
According to the NC Tourism Board numbers, the average family that vacations on the Outer Banks spends about $1,000 during their stay, of which $95 are State taxes. If we got back to the peak year numbers we would add 273,000 vehicles over last year. If only half of the vehicles were families on vacation and spent their $1,000 it would add over $136,000,000 to the local economy, and add almost $13,000,000 in State tax revenue.
That $13,000,000 in taxes far exceeds the $5,000,000 now asked for in tolls.
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