During the Republican primary, a little noticed issue kept popping up among TEA party groups. Thom Tillis supports toll roads in North Carolina. In particular, he supports them along 1-77 between Statesville and Charlotte. The TEA party doesn’t and they blasted Tillis over the issue.

As Asheville writer Tom Sullivan notes, North Carolina will subcontract with a Spanish company to build the roads and then allow them to collect tolls to pay for the expense. But there’s no risk since taxpayers are still responsible for the cost if revenues fall short. Essentially, the scheme is privatizing our public services.

The TEA party folks are no fans of big government but they are no fans big corporations, either, especially if those corporations are receiving sweetheart deals from the government. Sullivan wrote, “So HOT lane opponents wondered why he’d support toll roads over objections from his party, local Republican lawmakers, and Mecklenburg constituents – even the conservative Civitas Institute.” The toll road opponents surmised it was because of Tillis’ close ties with ALEC, the industry lobbying group that’s been writing business-friendly laws for state governments.

However, now there’s another possibility. It seems that a group of investors in Tillis’ home town of Cornelius own a piece of property that they would like to develop. In order to build, though, they need an exit on the interstate. Such an exit has never been a priority of DOT, but bundled into a transportation bill along with the toll road is money that could be used for such an exit.

The bill passed with the support of Tillis. The very next day, executives and wives of the company that wanted to build gave $26,000 to the Tillis’ Senate campaign. The Tillis campaign says the timing was coincidental. After 20 years in politics, I don’t believe in those types of coincidences. There may not have been a quid pro quo, but if the bill had failed, I doubt the donations would have come through.