Ferry folly, fixed

July 12, 2012 

In a coastal state where ferries provide day-to-day transportation for many local residents, let alone thousands of tourists, raising the tolls on those ferries – or putting tolls on ferries that people now ride for free – was bound to be about as popular as a heat rash.

So ever since Republican legislators floated the idea of costlier ferry trips, Democratic Gov. Beverly Perdue has been well-positioned on the political high ground. She didn’t exactly say, “No ferry toll increases except over my dead body!” But that was the message she conveyed.

The Republicans on Jones Street, at least those on the Senate side, took the bait. They’d write the state budget to make those ferry riders pay!

Then, a funny thing happened on the way to the dock. When the budget dust finally settled, any new ferry tolls were put off for at least a year. Perhaps more to the point, it’ll be status quo until well after the November elections.

The new tolls had been cast as a fair way to help the state deal with an ongoing revenue crunch. But Perdue maintained they’d amount to an unwarranted hardship for folks who depend on ferries across the Neuse and Pamlico Rivers, now free, to get to work. Times have been tough enough in coastal counties, she argued, what with storms and the economic slump.

It may make sense to tweak the toll structure on ferries that cater to Outer Banks vacationers. But the delay will allow the whole issue to be revisited in an orderly fashion. It’s good that Perdue got legislators on board.

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