North Carolina’s House of Representatives Aug. 3 introduced a plan to increase transportation funding for the state that combines elements of separate plans introduced by the Senate and Governor Pat McCrory (R) earlier this spring.
House leaders said their package would generate $4.155 billion for infrastructure maintenance and repair. The proposal would eliminate transfers from the state’s Highway Fund to programs not directly tied to construction costs—including the Highway Patrol and driver’s education—for an additional $1.296 billion over the next six years ($216 million per year). Additionally, the plan includes a request for voter approval of a $2.85 billion bond for infrastructure projects, with $400 million of that amount allocated to ‘shovel ready’ road and bridge projects.
Governor McCrory announced April 17 his plan to provide necessary infrastructure improvements by issuing $2.85 billion in bonds, with $1.37 billion designated for state roads. While promoting his “Connect NC” plan to improve the state’s infrastructure, McCrory highlighted the benefits of jump-starting several ‘shovel-ready’ projects with these bonds, and stated that historically low interest rates present a good opportunity to utilize bonds for construction.
The Senate expressed resistance June 15 to bonding, voicing concern over increasing the state’s debt and the long-term cost of paying back the bond. Instead, leaders proposed eliminating transfers from North Carolina’s Highway Fund and increasing spending on road projects by an average of $130 million per year for the next ten years.
The House plan is anticipated to be approved quickly, after which it will go to the Senate for consideration. Governor McCrory released a statement expressing support for the House’s plan the same day it was introduced.
“We’re pleased that the Connect NC bond proposal continues to gain momentum. I applaud the House for listening to the people across our state, who want to prepare North Carolina for the next generation. North Carolinians deserve a chance to express their voice on this issue in November. The Connect NC proposal provides common-sense, long-term solutions to strengthen our schools, roads, parks, public safety and quality of life. The House proposal aligns with our plan to invest in North Carolina with a prudent, conservative approach that takes advantage of historically low interest rates and doesn’t raise taxes. I’d especially like to thank House Speaker Tim Moore and Rep. Dean Arp for their work on a thoughtful process to move the bonds forward.”
North Carolina has been operating under a temporary budget since the previous fiscal year expired on June 30. Lawmakers expressed uncertainty over the possibility of a compromise by Aug. 14, in which case a continuing resolution could be authorized to keep the state government running.
Update August 6: The House overwhelmingly passed it’s transportation bond just three days after the package was introduced. House Bill 943, the $2.859 million bond package, was approved by lawmakers 76-29.