On Friday, Gary Salamido, NC Chamber president and CEO, shared a memo that debunked some of the misconceptions about our state’s infrastructure funding crisis. As our coalition continues to push for a fix, it is important that we share the facts.
Myth: This will all work out if we do nothing.
Fact: If we want North Carolina to remain competitive, doing nothing is not an option. Not only will this harm our state’s transportation industry, but the disastrous ramifications of this crisis will touch every part of North Carolina’s competitive economy. There are 900 pre-construction projects that have been cancelled, 300 project lettings that have been delayed, and the start dates of 40-50 projects have been pushed a year. From engineers to construction workers, layoffs are occurring across the transportation industry. This is talent that is not easily replaced and once it’s gone, it will likely be gone for good. Further, our state will continue growing despite these project delays. Unfortunately, if our state fails to make the infrastructure improvements needed to meet the demands of its increasing population, North Carolina will be at a severe disadvantage that could take years to overcome.
Myth: The recently passed mini-budget should address the problem.
Fact: While the General Assembly did pass a mini-budget that included infrastructure funding, these dollars do not address our current problem. The funding in the mini-budget provides dollars to run the NCDOT and does not provide additional funds to address storm recovery and the Map Act. Using money currently allocated in the mini-budget would take money away from other critical projects to address these needs. It’s like robbing Peter to pay Paul.
Myth: The NCDOT mismanaged funds and overshot project acceleration.
Fact: It can be easy to point fingers for the cause of this crisis. Instead of placing blame, we need to be focused on fixing the problem. This will require an immediate fix, but it also provides the opportunity to have a meaningful discussion about a long-term funding strategy for transportation and infrastructure in our state.
Myth: NCDOT has Build NC bond money, can’t they just use that?
Fact: NCDOT cannot take bond proceeds from bonds already sold and move them to different projects. Build NC bonds can only be accessed once a year and the Department has already tapped into those funds this year.
Myth: NCDOT is responsible for the MAP Act and should spend the cash balance on settlements.
Fact: At the same time NCDOT was funding storm recovery, millions of dollars in Map Act payments matured and the Department became obligated to pay damages earlier than had been anticipated. This strained the Department’s resources. Since, there have been conversations about how NCDOT should cover Map Act payouts and where the dollars should come from. No matter how these damages are paid, the fact remains that there are not enough resources to go around. If the Department is required to only use its cash balance to pay damages, projects that have already been delayed will not restart and it is likely more projects could be stopped, further hampering the state’s ability to compete. NCDOT needs resources to be able to pay out damages and fund important projects at the same time, which isn’t the case right now. If we fail to find a solution that both jumpstarts projects and helps pay Map Act damages, then our state will ultimately be in a graver situation than we are in now.
We must return stability and consistency to North Carolina’s infrastructure funding to ensure our transportation networks can keep our goods and people moving and to keep the state competitive. As Gary said, “The General Assembly has been instrumental in making vital transportation infrastructure funds available for our state. This includes the $1.2 billion the NCGA awarded NCDOT in 2015, as well as major investments to modernize our ports and airports. We are confident that the General Assembly, the Department, and the business community can coalesce around a solution that recognizes that we can’t afford to stop.”
As you hear these misconceptions, we encourage you to share the truth about our state’s funding challenges. If you haven’t yet joined the NC Can’t Afford to Stop Coalition, but wish to join our efforts, click here.