Doubt greets Perdue's 'mobility fund'

staff writersMay 25, 2010 

Gov. Bev Perdue is pushing legislators to include a new transportation fund in the state budget, but they're reluctant to go along.

The Senate did not include the new spending in its budget, and its future in the House is uncertain.

Perdue wants to use the fund to replace the antique and narrow Yadkin River Bridge and to pay for other big state transportation projects. On Monday, she invited mayors from around the state to join her at a news conference to lobby for the fund, saying a healthy transportation network is important to economic development.

Perdue proposes to create the so-called N.C. Mobility Fund mostly from increases in car registration fees. She said lawmakers should get over their reluctance to raise fees in an election year.

Businesses don't base their decisions on where to locate or grow based on DMV fees, Perdue said, but "they will walk away if the infrastructure doesn't meet their needs."

Legislators aren't the only ones objecting. The N.C. Automobile Dealers Association opposes the plan. Under Perdue's proposal, car buyers would no longer be able to deduct the value of their trade-ins when determining the cost of new cars for tax purposes. The auto dealers association said a buyer trading in a car valued at $10,000 would have to pay an additional $300 in taxes.

After Perdue's news conference, Rep. Nelson Cole, a Reidsville Democrat, said he doesn't want the fund.

"I don't think now is a good time to be adding a tax burden to our citizens," said Cole, a budget writer in the House.

Cole said the issue was likely to get debated. "It's just the beginning of the dance," he said.

The state needs new sources of transportation money, Perdue said, because the Highway Trust Fund cannot meet demands for improvements.

The state Department of Transportation vowed to find money to start work this year on a new Interstate 85 bridge across the Yadkin River near Salisbury after the federal government rejected the state's $300 million request for stimulus money to replace it.

But the DOT needs about $150 million more to widen six miles of I-85 near the bridge.

The bridge, judged "structurally deficient" by federal inspectors, can give drivers a sense of unease with its narrow lanes, low guard rail, sweeping curve preceding the eastern end and murky brown water below.

Rep. Becky Carney, a Charlotte Democrat and co-chairwoman of the House Transportation Committee, keeps her distance from tractor-trailers so she's not on the bridge at the same time.

"I let them get across," she said, "and then I gun it."

Staff writer Mark Johnson contributed to this report.

lynn.bonner@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4821

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