NORTH CAROLINA - No new tolls will be imposed on any North Carolina ferry route for the 2013-2014 fiscal year, according to a copy of the bill obtained by NewsChannel 12.
The state legislature and governor are expected to approve a budget this week that will not require any ferry tolls be added, and no current ferry tolls increased. In Eastern North Carolina, many people have written, emailed, and gone to the state capitol to try to stop ferry toll increases from happening.
"We're extremely delighted about it, and we feel it's the best thing for the economy in Eastern Carolina," said Oriental Commissioner Larry Summers.
The Oriental town hall was used by people there to fax in written objections to proposed ferry toll increases. Thanks to a loophole, with at least 10 or more written objections to a rule, the ferry toll issue was submitted back for legislative review.
Both houses of the legislature and the governor worked on a budget that agrees to do away with ferry toll increases.
In addition, existing ferry tolls will remain unchanged, after the state legislature finalized its budget Sunday night.
In one of its final actions of the 2013 session, the North Carolina General Assembly voted to restore $5 million to the Ferry Division budget.
The deadline for ferry tolls to start has passed, but some people living in Eastern North Carolina have sent the issue back into the state legislature.
Using a little known loophole that subjects a rule to legislative approval if 10 or more written objections are sent to the NC Rules Review Commission. Oriental commissioner Larry Summers said 95 written objections were sent in.
Now, lawmakers in the state house and senate have to approve some sort of bill in regards to the tolls. Currently in the legislature are a number of bills regarding ferry tolls. They range from moving forward with current proposed tolls, to another one eliminating ferry tolls in favor of other fund raising alternatives.
"We think the transportation infrastructure of the state should be free." Summers said. "There's tolls that could be added to tunnels, there's tolls that could be added to bridges. There's tolls that could be added to highways. I don't think most of the people in North Carolina want to see that."
In April, the North Carolina Department of Transportation set up several tolling booths at ferries at which new tolls would be added. Those booths will sit empty until the legislature makes a decision on the tolls.
Summers says most opponents of the toll increases are in favor of a house appropriations bill that eliminates some of the toll increases from the budget. Another bill in the Senate has the increases going forward.