Today, the North Carolina Senate gave initial approval to House Bill 77, which reforms the State Board of Transportation to improve transparency and financial oversight of the Department of Transportation. The bipartisan bill received a unanimous vote and will be up for a final vote on June 19.
Under the new board composition, the Governor appoints a supermajority of 14 voting members, and the legislature would appoint six members. The board’s primary function will be overseeing the department’s finances. Members are required to have a background in transportation or financing.
“This bill has been a bipartisan effort from the beginning. With this landmark legislation, we’re restoring confidence and trust in the department,” Sen. Tom McInnis (R-Richmond) said. “From this point forward, there will be more oversight and more transparency of the department’s finances. This is a visionary solution addressing the financial challenges facing the Department of Transportation, allowing for additional internal and external reviews.”
The changes come on the heels of an audit from the State Auditor’s Office that found the department exceeded its budget by $742 million in fiscal year 2019. The audit also determined that when the 14 highway divisions were short on cash they were allowed to borrow against the next year’s budget, meaning the divisions would begin the next fiscal year without a balanced budget.
House Bill 77 directly addresses the concerns raised by the audit by increasing accountability and transparency for the DOT.