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Mayors back governor's plan for new roads fund

Governor Perdue and members of the NC Metropolitan Mayors Coalition held a rally today in support of a new plan to deal with road problems. The money would come from drivers paying more at the DMV, and that has state lawmakers stepping on the brakes. Governor Perdue's proposal is a partial solution to a complaint metropolitan mayors have had for a long time: They say the formula the state uses to dole out transportation money forces cities with major freeways to spend most of their allotment taking care of those roads, rather than building new ones or dealing with smaller projects. The governor's new "Mobility Fund" would pay for maintaining and improving major state roads on a regional level and wouldn't cut into the money cities get through the regular transportation formula. Concord Mayor Scott Padgett points to repaving that was done recently on sections of I-85 in Cabarrus County. "If that money had come out of this fund than it would not count against us on the equity formula," says Padgett. Governor Perdue estimates the Mobility Fund would raise $95 million next year - mostly by adding $7 to the cost of registering a car at the DMV. The first project on the list to be funded would be the Yadkin River Bridge, which failed to qualify for federal stimulus dollars. After that, the Mobility Fund would be open to any road, rail, port, transit or air project of statewide or regional significance. But state lawmakers have so far been reluctant to embrace the proposal. The Senate did not include the Mobility Fund in its draft budget. Metropolitan mayors and Governor Perdue hope the House will change that when it completes the budget. Representative Bill Current of Gastonia says the idea of raising fees is a problem. "At this particular time I really question raising taxes on anything," says Current. "But it may be a great idea, I just don't know whether the timing is right to be considering it." Representative Current is on the subcommittee that would have to approve the Mobility Fund for the House budget. He says any major changes to transportation funding would be a challenge this year, since it's a short session for the General Assembly.