RALEIGH – The state House passed the $2 billion N.C. Connect bond package by a bipartisan vote of 86-23 late Monday, meaning a final vote Tuesday will send the bill to Gov. Pat McCrory, where he has promised to send the bond for voter approval in March. The bonds will borrow money to pay for upgrades to some infrastructure, community colleges, universities, and water and sewer systems. Originally proposed by McCrory as a $2.75 billion bond, N.C. Connect remained largely intact, but lost some transportation and other projects as it moved through the General Assembly.
Almost all Democrats and most Republicans supported the bonds Monday, but Rep. Mark Brody (R-Monroe) said that as a building contractor, he was wary of adding to the state’s debt burden. Bonds supporters dismissed Brody’s worry and said that the state’s debt would actually go down in the short term and then level off.
Minority leader Rep. Larry Hall said that while he supported the projects included in the bill, he worried about the cost to middle-class taxpayers who would pay the tab because of Republican tax policies. Rep. Paul “Skip” Stam countered that a Republican-led effort to not extend what Stam called a “highly regressive” sales tax had saved North Carolina families $4.1 billion since 2012.
Projects for higher-education facilities, military communities and water and sewer grants dominate the projects in the bill, but McCrory’s original plan, which included upgrades to transportation infrastructure and other projects, such as a new visitor’s center at the U.S.S. North Carolina battleship, were removed by legislators. Budget writers said much of the infrastructure work could be done with the $216 million that will no longer be taken from the Highway Fund to support the General Fund every year. The budget McCrory signed recently stops that annual transfer.
McCrory had originally requested that the bond go on the November 2015 ballot to take advantage of historically low interest rates. With the passage of House Bill 373, a measure that moves all primaries to March, McCrory now supports putting the bond package before voters in March.