Bill CookThanks to the efforts of Representative Bill Cook, the Hatteras and Knotts Island ferries will remain toll free. Rep. Cook, who is running for the Senate 1 seat now held now by Stan White, lobbied hard for a correction in the Senate version of the budget that would have implemented new ferry tolls on the Hatteras Island, Knotts Island and the Neuse and Pamlico River routes and increased tolls on all other routes.  Due to his efforts, the Senate revised their final budget bill to include a moratorium on any new or increased tolling through June 30, 2013.  The final budget was passed on July 2nd when the House overrode Governor Perdue’s veto.

Last year’s bi-annual budget contained an exemption for Hatteras and Knotts Island ferry tolls but lawmakers in the Senate wanted to remove that exemption this year to make up for transportation spending in other areas, including spending on the mid-Currituck Bridge.  After Representative Bill Cook personally appealed to Senate Pro Tem Berger in the final hours of the budget negotiations in the Senate, the Senate revised their budget conference bill to mirror the House’s budget bill in regards to tolls.  Rep. Cook spent the night in the Senate, waiting for the final conference bill to come up for a vote, which it did, in the wee hours.  It passed at 3:34am.  The final Senate version placed a moratorium on new and increased tolls this year.  The Senate made up most of the shortfall by reducing spending to “supplement and advance project studies related to the Mid-Currituck Bridge project”.  The Senate conference bill moved to the House where House Leader Thom Tillis and a majority of House members had already agreed with Representatives Cook and Sanderson on enacting no new or increased tolls.  Rep. Cook saw the bill pass a few hours later in his own chamber.

We are indeed grateful to Rep. Cook for his efforts to ensure that the Senate conference bill contained no new tolls for the Hatteras to Ocracoke ferry route.  Even though he does not represent Dare County yet, we know that we have a champion for our interests in Bill Cook.  It is so important that we here in Dare County be represented not only by someone who will fight for us, but that we be represented by someone who can persuade the House and Senate leaders to do what’s right for Eastern North Carolina.

It is interesting to note that Senator White’s efforts to have the tolls removed was not successful.  Could that have anything to do with the forged letter he presented on the Senate floor during the budget debate to try and procure additional funding for the mid-Currituck Bridge?   Maybe the Senate leader has had enough of politics as usual.  An appeal from a Republican, looking out for his constituents, and not his own interests, carries much more weight than an appeal from a minority member who has a history of looking out for himself and his business partners.  Let’s thank Bill Cook on November 2nd and vote for him to be our next State Senator.

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