Bill on Construction Borrowing, Referendum Goes to McCrory

Voters statewide will likely decide in March whether North Carolina should borrow $2 billion for scores of government construction projects.

📅   Wed October 14, 2015 - Southeast Edition
Gary D. Robertson - ASSOCIATED PRESS


With a final House vote of 93-20 just after midnight, the agreement reached between Republican legislative leaders now goes to Gov. Pat McCrory’s desk.
With a final House vote of 93-20 just after midnight, the agreement reached between Republican legislative leaders now goes to Gov. Pat McCrory’s desk.

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) Voters statewide will likely decide in March whether North Carolina should borrow $2 billion for scores of government construction projects after the General Assembly gave final approval early Sept. 30 to a debt package and proposed referendum.

With a final House vote of 93-20 just after midnight, the agreement reached between Republican legislative leaders now goes to Gov. Pat McCrory’s desk.

The GOP governor pushed a bond package for months, although he wanted to borrow closer to $3 billion and allocate substantial proceeds to road-building. No transportation projects are included. But McCrory has telegraphed his support for the scaled-down package, telling a public audience that he expected efforts to lobby for the referendum to begin within weeks.

Like the Senate’s votes, House support was bipartisan.

McCrory and other bond supporters have said very low interest rates and the needs of a growing state make it the right time to borrow.

The referendum would mark the first statewide bond question on the ballot since 2000.

“We have an unprecedented opportunity and responsibility to fix our crumbling infrastructure,’’ said Rep. Dean Arp, R-Union, who shepherded the bond package through the House, during a brief late-night debate. There was more vigorous debate earlier in the week before the House gave initial approval.

Arp said $440 million in additional annual funds for new transportation expenditures leave the borrowing for projects that don’t have specific revenue streams. The additional transportation revenues include new Division of Motor Vehicles fees and the elimination of the annual transfer of $216 million of road-building dollars for general government operations.

Critics of the bond package, largely a minority of House Republicans, advocated for pay-as-you-go construction and said the package included unnecessary projects, particularly for higher education.

The plan would set aside $935 million for 14 specific University of North Carolina campus projects, with $45 million more for repairs and renovations throughout the system. Another $350 million would be earmarked for all 58 community colleges. New community college construction would require local matching funds, with proportions being more generous for the most economically distressed counties.

Another $309.5 million would go to water and wastewater system projects, with $100 million of the amount earmarked for grants and the rest for loans. The Department of Environmental Quality would oversee these funds.

Debt proceeds also would include:

• $94 million for a new Department of Agriculture lab.

• $85 million for a plant sciences building shared between the Department of Agriculture and N.C. State University.

• $75 million for more than 40 state parks.

• $70 million for National Guard construction.

• $25 million to replace the Africa Pavilion for the North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro.

• $8.5 million for the new Samarcand Training Academy for correctional and probation and parole officers.

• $3 million in grants for local parks for children and veterans with disabilities.