RALEIGH – House Republicans announced a$2.85 billion, 6-year bond plan that they say would fund the governor’s NC Connect priorities, plus some. The bond will be presented later Monday evening as a stand-alone bill in the House Rules committee and then be heard in House Finance tomorrow morning.
In a press conference Monday, state House leadership said the package, while it has the same price tag as the governor’s bond, would cover more projects because it combines cash and takes advantage of the state’s opportunity to borrow money for key projects at a low interest rate, saying it would be paid off by 2021.
“The concept of this bond in long-term savings because the longer we wait, the more its going to cost to complete these projects,” said Rep. Den Arp (R-Monroe), who led the effort to put the bond package together. “This is fiscally responsible, it will save money in the long run, it will require raising no taxes, and all the debt will be paid off in five years.”
Lawmakers say time is money because interest rates are at an historic low and expected to go up in September. The bond package uses a combination of $1.3 billion in appropriated cash and a $2.85 million bond. Among the key projects included are:
- $200 million for capital repairs
- $1.7 million for capital improvements at community colleges, universities and K-12 schools
- $100 million for state parks
- $10 million in matching grants for local parks
- $92 million for the National Guard
- $10.8 million for U.S.S. North Carolina battleship renovations
- $400 million for transportation improvements, including roads and bridges
- $75 million in a program for rural communities to apply for help with their sewer and water system updates
The bond package comes while Governor McCrory works on one of his own. NC Connect has been the centerpiece of the governor’s efforts in recent months as a way to fund transportation projects such as road updates and bridge repairs. North Carolina has achieved a AAA credit rating from the three major credit rating agencies after lawmakers took steps to reduce state debt. The high rating allows the state to borrow money at reduced interest rates.
“We appreciate the governor kicking off this process a few months ago and we want to join with him,” said House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Kings Mountain). This is a part of planning ahead for our future by taking advantage of low interest rates. We’re paying off our debt to the Federal government and this is a prime opportunity to invest in our long term growth.”
The bond package would be put to voters in a referendum on ballots this November. While there has been no official statement from Blount Street, insiders say that McCrory has privately supported the basics of the House’s bond package.
After making what is anticipated to be a quick trip through the House, the Senate will then have to approve it. That chamber has already been critical of McCrory’s plan, saying that it incurs debt for future General Assemblies to have to settle. However, with budget negotiations still going on behind closed doors, this bond is another chip on the table and may play a big role in how the final budget, and session, fleshes out.