The federal IIJA will give North Carolina’s infrastructure a bipartisan boost, but a modernized strategy for sustainable transportation and infrastructure funding remains elusive for our state. The NC Chamber is committed to fixing this.
The NC Chamber and the business community have a history of leading on infrastructure issues. In 2015, we launched our NC Can’t Afford to Wait initiative, which helped secure more than $1 billion in transportation revenue for our state, including millions in recurring revenue – the first true long-term transportation funding reforms passed in North Carolina since 1989. We continued that success in 2019 and 2020 with our NC Can’t Afford to Stop Coalition – the successor to that first initiative – which helped pass legislation that infused almost $300 million into DOT by way of the Highway Trust Fund and Build NC bonds. While we’ve made great progress since then, it isn’t enough.
The Current Challenge
Surging costs from historic storms, revenue shortfalls, widespread project delays, and the COVID-19 pandemic have all contributed to our transportation challenges here in North Carolina. Even more alarming, however, are the objective studies showing that North Carolina depends far too heavily on increasingly inviable funding sources, like the motor fuels tax, to generate transportation revenue.
As growing numbers of motorists adopt electric vehicles (EVs) and vehicle manufacturers commit to ever-higher EV production targets, traditional funding options like the motor fuels tax are becoming less and less viable. And unfortunately, North Carolina is highly dependent on the motor fuels tax to fund transportation projects, with 54.7% of total state transportation revenues provided by this tax, according to the NC FIRST Commission.
With states across the nation grappling with this same challenge, North Carolina has the chance to become a leader in creating new models for capturing transportation revenue that can remain viable in the coming decades. If we can do this, we stand to create explosive impacts across our economy and secure our economic recovery and post-pandemic success – if we cannot, we will fall further and further behind other states that choose the path of innovation.
Fortunately, the NC Chamber and NC Chamber Foundation are committed to solving this crisis. One question is driving our efforts: How can we ensure North Carolina creates the modernized, diversified revenue stream we need to keep our roads, railways, ports, and airports well-funded over the next decade and beyond?
In the summer of 2020, the NC Chamber formed the Destination 2030 Coalition to ensure North Carolina’s business community is actively engaged in helping to answer this important question throughout the current decade. Together, this growing alliance of job creators is committed to providing bold solutions to the transportation funding challenges facing our state.
Rebuilding Eastern North Carolina: Rural challenges, lingering impacts from the 2008 recession, natural disasters, and the recent cancellation of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline have all combined to leave many of our state’s eastern communities underserved economically. The NC Chamber Foundation will conduct a comprehensive effort to consider ways we can rebuild infrastructure and support job creation across these communities. Starting by convening key leaders, businesses, and economic development organizations in these rural areas, the Foundation will develop options to reinvigorate eastern North Carolina.
Digital Infrastructure Access and Adoption Study: The NC Chamber Foundation study, Spreading Economic Opportunity Across North Carolina, validated and amplified the importance of access to and local adoption of available broadband as a key infrastructure element for businesses and for students. The policy debate and tension between local government and private companies has created significant challenges in meeting the needs of non-urban businesses and residents. The Foundation will continue to work with partners across the state to identify options for private-sector solutions to increase access to and adoption of rural broadband. This effort will work in tandem with the Foundation’s efforts to rebuild eastern North Carolina, as broadband access is integral to the revitalization of rural parts of our state.
Managing Solid Waste: With North Carolina’s dramatic population growth expected to continue, our state’s generation of solid waste will only increase. As such, it is critical that we advance a solid waste management strategy that is both environmentally and economically sound. Necessary research should focus on new technologies, necessary regulatory reforms, current capacity, and future needs. This research should also propose permitting standards for new sites (considering questions such as where new sites can be located, how many will be allowed, and under what conditions can they be developed?) and analyze the efficacy of current recycling efforts.
In addition to these efforts, the NC Chamber Government Affairs team advocates for a jobs agenda that will continue to keep NC first in business. Recent wins include:
- 2020: House Bill 77, secured with NC Chamber support, made $700 million in Build NC bonds available for transportation uses during FY2020/2021.
- 2020: COVID-19 Recovery Act set aside $300 million in CARES Act funding for state transportation investments.
- 2021: State budget included roughly $90 million in new, annually recurring Highway Fund revenue from the sale of short-term vehicle leases, $219 million to fund flood mitigation and resilience projects and initiatives, and $8 billion in allocations to help modernize North Carolina’s transportation, broadband, water and sewer, and public education infrastructure.
- View our 2022 Legislative Agenda to learn how the NC Chamber will advance bold solutions to the transportation funding challenges facing our state.
- Learn how the NC Chamber advanced competitive infrastructure priorities for NC job creators in the 2021 edition of How They Voted.
- Learn about our Transportation & Infrastructure Summit, held yearly to connect industry leaders with NCDOT policymakers and information about the initiatives sure to impact the sector.