The Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday passed a reworked bill seeking funds to dredge North Carolina’s shallow-draft inlets.
Senate Bill 58 will raise about $6 million annually by increasing boat registration fees, requiring the state registration of all commercial fishing boats, and siphoning roughly $2 million from the state’s gas tax that pays for highway improvements.
Sen. Harry Brown, R-Onslow, said the idea of tapping the N.C. Highway Trust Fund is to recapture some of the funds created by boat owners filling up at gas stations.
Local cities looking to draw down the funds would have to put up a $1 for $1 match.
The bill is headed to the Senate floor. It passed on a voice vote with little discussion.
Brown has been working for months for a dredging solution as federal funds have all but dried up for such projects. He originally proposed much larger fee increases than the one’s included in the amended bill, but some boat owners bucked at the idea, saying it was unfair for inland boat owners to pay for the coast’s problems.
Brown’s original bill included a multi-tiered system for fee hikes depending on the size of the boat. Under the original measure, big-boat owners, those with vessels 40 feet or longer, would have been asked to cough up 10 times the current cost: $150 per year.
Currently, it costs $15 a year to register a boat with the state, regardless of the vessel’s size. Boat owners get a $5 break if they pay for a three-year registration.
Under Brown’s latest measure, boats that are 25 feet long or less would pay $25 and vessels 26 feet and longer would pay $50 per year. Three-year registrations still would be allowed but would not come with a price break.
The bill’s effective date is Oct. 1, 2013, if it becomes law.