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Friday, February 26, 2010 - 11:48am

DOT Wants Emergency Fund

The state’s transportation chief says his agency like every other in the state is stretched financially, but with recent storms, it’s faced some unforeseen costs. And now is the time the state sets up an emergency fund to keep the roads open during bad weather.

At a budget hearing Friday, DOT Commissioner Vance Smith told lawmakers his department has no money set a side for emergencies.

"We don’t have a category that says emergency funds, so when floods came in sept and two ices storms and previous snow storms, we’ve had to draw money from other pots," says Smith, "and that’s tough and that’s what we’ve had to and we did it."

Smith says the storms cost his department $5 million and that’s a lot when working with a thin budget. He wants money set aside for that purpose. Though that could prove difficult since the agency’s main source of revenue is the dwindling motor fuel tax.

But lawmakers are well aware of the need for more transportation dollars. After failing to pass a funding plan for the past two years, the governor has introduced his own proposal now moving through the chambers. They consist of a regional sales tax and a new bond package.

Lawmakers say that could free up money for an emergency fund.