I’ve always supported bonds, but maybe not this time

de Vries
de Vries

Do you have as many questions about the March 15 $2 billion statewide bond issue for colleges and universities as I have? Not necessarily about the merits of the many buildings – all seem worthwhile – but how we are being sold on how it is to be done.

What’s the hurry? Why don’t we wait until we have a new governor and state legislature that we will elect in just eight months? Then, they can fulfill their constitutional obligations in January 2017 to spend the money and raise the taxes needed for all of these new buildings. Sounds reasonable, right?

Perhaps, this bond issue whizzed through the legislative building and the governor’s mansion because it relieves these politicians of their constitutional responsibilities and dumps them on us the voters. See? They will say: WE didn’t make these spending and tax decisions – YOU, the voters did. So there. No wonder we are cynical about our governments.

Indeed, the current Republican governor and state legislature got elected during the past six years with promises of cutting spending, lowering taxes, reducing the state’s debt, cutting fat from government, and generally reducing the size of state government and returning more power to local governments. Remember all those pledges to us?

So, for me, this $2 billion bond issue also remains problematical in that it:

…started out as a highways and roads bond issue, but ended up with no money for them;

…loads up a veritable Christmas tree with gift buildings for colleges and universities to assure a “yes” vote across the state irrespective of the merits of them and;

…guarantees that the taxes of the North Carolina voters will not be raised to pay for the bond issue!

The proponents of the bond issue tell us that when we borrow $2 billion, we do not have to pay any interest. How do you do that, my friends? Voodoo economics. That is the secret. We are told we have the “capacity” to borrow because we have been paying off our debts. If that is true, does that mean if we don’t pass this bond issue our Republican governor and legislators will REDUCE our taxes? Don’t hold your breath.

To me, something that we are seeing and hearing about this $2 billion bond issue just doesn’t smell right.

For 43 years, my company has worked on bond issues for projects in many North Carolina counties and towns. In every campaign, we told the truth that if you are going to spend taxes on buildings and operating them, it will mean that it will cost you the voters money (e.g., a monthly or yearly increase on your taxes).

In the past 43 years, I have voted for every bond issue in New Hanover County and at the state level.

But, this year, I am having doubts.

So, all you pollsters and voters, put me down as “undecided, but leaning against.”

Walt de Vries is a political consultant, author, and founder of the North Carolina Institute of Political Leadership.