State Treasurer Dale Folwell laid it out plain and simple: The state Department of Transportation took in $5 billion and spent $7 billion, he said.
Folwell went on to explain what happened next: To plug the $2 billion hole it had dug, DOT reached into the Highway Trust Fund and took out $1.1 billion. And then it borrowed $900 million using bonds.
That led to two more problems: By law, DOT can’t take money out of the Highway Trust Fund unless Folwell agrees. But he didn’t agree. Because he didn’t know. DOT never told him.
That wasn’t all. When DOT borrowed $900 million, in the bond offering it reported that the Map Act settlements were not ‘material’ to its ability to repay the bonds. (DOT lost the Map Act lawsuit in 2016 and has to pay people for taking their property without compensation.)
However, a month later, Folwell reports, DOT’s Chief Operating Officer told the Board of Transportation the lawsuit settlements may exceed $1 billion.
That sounds ‘material.’
Treasurer Dale Folwell painted a pretty dire picture, but he also offered a solution: He recommended Governor Cooper remove his DOT Secretary Jim Trogdon and replace him. That didn’t suit the Governor at all.
Now, if Secretary Trogdon did single-handedly give the green light to raiding the Highway Trust Fund he has some explaining to do.
But that still leaves an unanswered question.
Did Secretary Trogdon, a retired Major General, raid the Highway Trust Fund on his own? Or was he following orders – to facilitate DOT’s $2 billion spending binge – by the Governor’s office?
Who had the final say: Was it Secretary Trogdon or the Governor’s office?
That’s a question we need an answer to.