The Senate released their budget around midnight last night and revealed a transportation budget different from the House on many key provisions. The Senate will hear public comments on the budget tomorrow morning. Any amendments to the bill in Appropriations Committee are required to be submitted by 10am tomorrow morning. Click here for the money document and here for the special provisions.
Like the House version the Senate caps the gas tax at 37.5 cents, but does not include the House's 35 cent project planning cap.
The Senate goes easier on the secondary roads program cutting only $17.7 million rather than the House's $39.4 million. But the Senate does require NCDOT to perform a statewide prioritization of the unpaved secondary roads and pave them in that order regardless of equity formula constraints. This means secondary roads would be added to the list of projects and programs exempt from the equity formula.
While the House reduced the funding for Public Transportation Division grant programs, the Senate took a different approach to cutting the State's transit programs by eliminating the New Starts Program and transferring the $28.9 million to the General Maintenance Reserve. The Charlotte light rail Blue Line Extension is the only project in the New Starts Program. The budget bill specifically says public transportation appropriations shall not be expended on any fixed guideway project in Mecklenburg County. There is an additional provision that says fixed guideway projects can compete for Highway Trust Fund dollars under the equity formula.
Another major difference in the two budgets is in treatment of the State's ferry system. The House intended to delay the start of the new ferry tolling called for in last year's budget while the Senate goes beyond last year's budget which left two routes still untolled and instead calls for tolling all ferries now.
The Senate captures unencumbered funds from the Mid Currituck Bridge and Garden Parkway that NCDOT has estimated they will not need in the fiscal year.
Both Chambers put tighter controls on NCDOT's use of the credit reserve balance in the Highway Fund, but the Senate gave a higher threshold for single project expenditures ($5 million rather than $2 million).
Both Chambers embrace the Mobility Fund by codifying the NCDOT formulas for the program.
The Senate rolls S888 - Ethics Requirements for MPOs/RPOs - into the budget bill.
The Senate repeals the Program Evaluation Division study of the N.C. Railroad.
The Senate rolls H1134 - NCDOT To Study Tolls On I-95 - but removes the provision that would allow the General Assembly to veto the project.
That's all for now,
Director, NC Metro Mayors Coalition