First in Flight, or First in Freedom? When car owners get new license plates for their cars, they’ll have new freedom to choose how they boast about North Carolina.
The new state budget rolled out in the General Assembly Wednesday night introduces the license plate option.
The budget also includes these additional transportation provisions. It:state funding – now $26 million a year in transportation funds – for driver education transportation funds to help pay salaries of six staffers
It was the Senate budget, released in May, that revealed previously unreported transfers of more than $267,000 in state gas tax and other transportation funds to help cover the governor’s payroll.
The legislature’s fiscal researchers said this transfer had never been made or reported before. But DOT later released records showing that former Gov. Bev Perdue had begun the practice of dunning DOT for salary money. McCrory enlarged the list of staffers paid with transportation money.
DOT money pays the full salaries of Jonathan Harris, McCrory’s assistant legal counsel, and a vacant communications specialist position. And DOT funds pay about 35 percent of the salaries for Ryan Tronovitch, deputy communications director; Dion Terry, policy analyst; Phillip Christofferson, boards and commissions specialist; and former state Rep. Fred Steen, the governor’s chief lobbyist.
The new budget says these payments must end after the current fiscal year, which ends next June 30. Then the governor will have to find a new way to pay these employees – or let them go. The new budget says also that a DOT position, federal legislative programs coordinator, will be eliminated after this year.
A “First in Flight” plate has been the state standard for 32 years, harking back to the Wright Brothers’ accomplishment at Kill Devil Hills. “First in Freedom” was the slogan embossed on our license plates from 1975 to 1979. It referred to the state’s proud history in the American Revolution, but it generated controversy among North Carolinians who disavowed the message.
But the budget released this week spreads the historic honors around by adding that the ultimate license plate can refer either to the Mecklenburg event or to the Halifax Resolves (also memorialized on the state seal with the date April 12, 1776).
The new freedom starts in July 2015.