From an editorial Wednesday in the (Greensboro) News & Record:
Pat McCrory made his political reputation on the strength of a progressive transportation project – Charlotte’s light-rail system. Conservative critics said it cost too much. They still say that.
The former mayor ran for governor by promising to bring the same long-term outlook to North Carolina’s transportation needs. Last week, he delivered an outline of what he has in mind.
McCrory’s 25-year plan envisions advances in highways, rail, ports, airports, mass transit and other areas. As North Carolina grows, its transportation system must meet the demands of a mobile society and fast-moving economy. The state also must catch up with overdue maintenance. Projected costs far exceed available revenues.
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The governor plans to reverse that with unspecified “revenue recommendations” he’ll present to the General Assembly early next year. He’ll also ask legislators to approve about $1 billion in revenue bonds to kick-start projects where work could launch soon. Many would be in rural areas.
The borrowing plan is problematic. The governor hasn’t yet identified a revenue source for paying off the debt. When there’s been so much consternation about finding money for schools, universities, unemployment benefits, Medicaid and countless other needs, assuming that $1 billion in transportation debt can be afforded is risky.
But the state can’t get ahead on the cheap. McCrory must present a vision of the future and persuade the public and legislators it’s worth paying for.