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February 28, 2012
Governor Beverly Perdue this afternoon announced she would put a moratorium on charging tolls on the Minnesott-Cherry Branch and Aurora-Bayview ferry routes.
That’s a rebuff to the Republican controlled legislature which last June passed a budget mandating that local ferry riders begin paying a toll as of April 1. Perdue, a Democrat, had vetoed the budget but was overridden.
The local ferries are considered commuter ferries, bringing local residents to their jobs and other aspects of daily life. Perdue’s press release chided the Legislature for balancing the budget, “on the backs of coastal working men and women”.
The moratorium on the tolls is expected to apply to the local ferries and also to the Legislature’s plan to increase tolls on the Southport ferry as well as to the Swanquarter and Cedar Island ferries to Ocracoke.
The press release issued by Perdue’s office Tuesday afternoon noted that the region was not recovering quickly from the recession nor from Hurricane Irene. It called DOT to cut costs to make up for the money the new tolls would have brought in.
The Governor’s press release also noted that the Legislature could overturn her moratorium. The Legislature returns for session in May.
Perdue announced several weeks ago that she would not be seeking re-election in November.
Contacted this afternoon, the governor’s office said that Perdue would likely sign the executive order tonight or tomorrow.
The lobbyist hired by Pamlico County as well as others fighting the tolls in the county say the moratorium delayes, but doesn’t erase the Legislature’s mandate for tolls. They are still working to fight the tolls in the Legislature.
Following is the press release:2/28/12 Raleigh
Gov. Perdue Announces Plan to Block Ferry Tax
Order Will Impose 12-month Moratorium and Development of Other Options
Gov. Bev Perdue today announced that she will issue an executive order blocking new taxes that the General Assembly imposed on passengers on the state’s ferry system.
“This new ferry tax – which I have always opposed – is both excessive and discriminatory,” Gov. Perdue said. “It is unjust for the General Assembly to balance their budget on the backs of coastal working men and women.”
In 2011, the North Carolina General Assembly mandated that NCDOT increase ferry revenue up to $5 million annually by establishing tolls for all ferry routes, except for the Ocracoke/Hatteras Ferry and the Knotts Island Ferry. To meet the legislative mandate the tolling rates must be in effect by April 1.
The Governor’s order is expected to state that coastal North Carolina is recovering from the recession but at a slower rate because of the devastation caused by Hurricane Irene last year. She announced the action today because the new tolls and toll increases would impose an additional burden on the region.
The Governor’s order will impose a 12-month moratorium on collecting increased tolls on routes that already were tolled and on collecting new tolls on routes that currently are free. At the end of the moratorium, NCDOT will review the state’s economic conditions and determine whether the moratorium should continue. The General Assembly could terminate the moratorium before the 12 months are over.
The order also directs NCDOT to find enough budget reductions to make up for the revenue that the new ferry tax would raise.
The legislature imposed the new ferry tax over Gov. Perdue’s veto.
The legislature’s budget requires the establishment of the new tolls, but state law gives DOT the discretion of whether to collect them. (N.C. Gen. Stat. § 136-82)
Update: 2/29/12 The Executive Order Establishing the Moratorium has been signed. A copy of the official order can be read here.
Posted Tuesday February 28, 2012 by Melinda Penkava
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