2016 ACE: Grand Award
The NC Chamber launched ads in the NC Can't Afford to Wait campaign, spending $175,000 on an initial, hard-hitting television ad emphasizing the number of structurally deficient bridges in North Carolina and urging state leaders to pass transportation funding reform. The initial ad was necessary to jump-start the conversation about transportation funding, as legislators, to that point, had not demonstrated an appetite to address the issue in 2015. The first phase of the NC Can't Afford to Wait campaign proved to be successful, securing the hard-fought passage of Senate Bill 20. SB20 saved approximately $400 million in annual spend from being cut from the transportation network. After passage, we continued to work for additional funding reforms.
North Carolina is one of the fastest growing states in the nation, with our population projected to add 2 million more residents by 2030. For a number of years now, the NC Chamber and our members in the business community have recognized the daunting challenge that an underfunded transportation network poses to a competitive future for our fast-growing state.
As the NC Chamber made securing long-term transportation reform measures the centerpiece of our JOBS Agenda, we directed a clear and consistent message toward elected leaders throughout session: face this challenge with courage and work to solve it now, or watch our competitiveness suffer as our transportation problems continue to get worse.
The NC Chamber developed the NC Can’t Afford to Wait campaign and launched www.NCCantAffordToWait.com (no longer a live website now that the campaign has ended). The first effort was to conduct a public poll of informed voters. The polling showed that securing additional revenues would be extremely difficult. However, when the full story was explained to voters, a narrow pathway to success emerged. Messaging was developed, centered on safety, congestion in urban areas, and the economic impact of building and maintaining a strong transportation network (JOBS). The NC Chamber led fundraising efforts by contributing $200,000. Since late 2014, the NC Chamber raised an additional $525,000 to push long-term funding reforms and revenue adjustments.
In September of 2015, elected leaders stepped up to the challenge, passing a budget that included the first long-term transportation reform measures passed in North Carolina since 1989.
Transportation funding reform measures passed in 2015 created an additional $1.158 billion in transportation revenue availability over the biennium, with $708 million deriving from recurring sources. The motor fuel tax was indexed under a new annually-adjusted formula to account for future growth, while the NC Ports Authority gained the first-ever state appropriation ($70 million) to modernize our outlets to overseas markets. New procedures were put in place to streamline the long- term delivery of projects over the entire network, allowing more new construction where it is needed most. And by ending the annual $216-million transfer from the Highway Fund to the General Fund, reforms ensured that virtually all money raised for transportation is invested directly back into the transportation network.