Politics & Government

NC House OKs $2.85 billion bond referendum

The state House voted Wednesday to put a $2.85 billion bond issue before voters this November, but the proposal garnered opposition from 21 Republican legislators.

After a final vote scheduled for Thursday, the bond proposal will head to the Senate, where leaders haven’t said whether they’ll support it.

The 79-30 House vote backs a bond package introduced by House leaders earlier this week. The plan would direct $2.46 billion toward infrastructure projects like university and school construction and $400 million toward transportation. An additional $1.3 billion in transportation projects would be funded through budget allocations without borrowing, under the House plan.

But some House Republicans said they don’t think the state should borrow money under any circumstances. “I kind of like the thought of being debt free,” said Rep. Mark Brody, a Union County Republican. “We found a credit card with zero interest on it, and as good stereotypical politicians ... we just can’t resist spending it.”

Rep. Jimmy Dixon, a Duplin County Republican, said debt also concerns him, but he thinks voters should make the call on bonds. “They can decide the merits of this, and I’m sure it will be discussed vigorously from one end of the state to the other,” he said.

Several leading Democrats voted against the bond, complaining that the legislation was too rushed. The bond package was released late Monday and got a committee vote the following morning. The final vote is set for Thursday morning.

“When did the public have an opportunity to weigh in on this bill?” asked Rep. Paul Luebke, a Durham Democrat. “Where was the public hearing on this bill?”

But despite the opposition from Luebke and House Democratic Leader Larry Hall, 30 Democrats voted for the proposal – and without their support, the bill would have failed because so many Republicans voted no.

“Our roads and bridges and infrastructure and schools have been neglected for years,” said Rep. Ken Goodman, a Rockingham Democrat. “This is a good bill that makes good business sense. If you’re going to grow, you have to take on debt.”

The House bond package focuses more heavily on state facility construction than Gov. Pat McCrory’s original proposal, which split bond proposals evenly between infrastrucure and transportation projects. And while McCrory’s bond package didn’t allocate bond money toward K-12 education, the House would put $500 million into a “public schools capital assistance program” to help fund new construction and renovations.

Several Republicans from the Charlotte area floated amendments designed to kill toll road projects there, including a controversial plan to add toll lanes to Interstate 77 in Mecklenburg County. Each amendment was either defeated in a split vote or ruled out of order by Speaker Tim Moore.