House and Senate Republican leaders agreed this week, in a provision to the newly released state budget, that the state should not contribute more than $500,000 to any light-rail project. How this will affect the proposed 17-mile Durham-Orange light rail line, projected to cost as much as $1.6 billion is anyone’s guess.
The budget also kills the positions of 29 state department of transportation employees. Moreover, DOT is ordered to fire another 21 “filled positions that are centrally or regionally based and that perform administrative, managerial, supervisory, or oversight functions.”
The budget also puts a stop the yearly transfer of $216 million in gas tax dollars, which is earmarked for transportation projects, from the Highway Fund to the General Fund. The change means that DOT will have more money for roads and bridges, and the State Highway Patrol budget will be covered instead by income tax and other General Fund revenues. This action, one of the biggest revenue shifts in the entire state budget, still leaves about $40 million in gas tax receipts that will continue to pay for non-DOT needs.