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North Carolina treasurer calls for Department of Transportation officials to be replaced

North Carolina Treasurer Dale Folwell

(The Center Square) – North Carolina Treasurer Dale Folwell is demanding that two top state transportation officials be removed after a series of financial issues at the North Carolina Department of Transportation.

Folwell, in a statement Wednesday, called on North Carolina Transportation Secretary Eric Boyette to replace the agency’s Chief Operating Officer Bobby Lewis and Chief Financial Officer Evan Rodewald to protect the state’s high bond rating and its retirement system.

“The continued mismanagement of this agency is a potential threat to North Carolina’s coveted triple ‘AAA’ bond rating,” Folwell said. “For over two years, the DOT has been writing checks it couldn’t cash, harming taxpayers, road users and vendors.”

NCDOT has overspent on construction and maintenance by $2 billion and maxed out its Highway Trust Fund by $1 billion since 2019, Folwell said.

A recent state audit found NCDOT also spent nearly $40 million more than the agency should have on employee pay raises. As a result, the state’s pension system has accrued $176 million in unfunded liabilities, Follwell said.

The state estimated its pension payments based on state employees’ average salaries. Because the NCDOT pay increases were more than 18 percent of what was projected for two years, it resulted in losses for the retirement system. That means state employees who are part of the system will have to pay more, Folwell said.

NCDOT could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Folwell asked Gov. Roy Cooper in October to replace former NCDOT Secretary James Trogdon and to transfer financial management of the agency to the Office of State Budget and Management because of the misuse of funds.

The General Assembly last month passed House Bill 77, a law that increases financial oversight of the agency by adding more members to the Board of Transportation.

The board must review and take action on each spending plan developed by NCDOT and ensure the department is operating within the approved plan. The board also must review and approve the department’s use of bonds, including those for federally funded projects.

“Getting it right and keeping it right are requirements for issuing more debt on behalf of the DOT,” Folwell said. “The treasurer’s office stands ready, and I hope that Secretary Boyette will take this agency in a new and fiscally responsible direction. Citizens deserve a stable and solvent DOT.”

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