Senate, House reach agreement on $2 billion bond bill
Posted September 22, 2015
Updated September 23, 2015
Raleigh, N.C. — State Senate leaders rolled out a rewrite of their $2 billion bond proposal, House Bill 943, at a late committee meeting Tuesday, saying the version has been agreed to by House leaders.
The latest version makes some major changes to the Senate version unveiled Monday.
The compromise would move the bond referendum back to the presidential primary, expected to be March 15, 2016. Senate leaders had sought to put it before voters next November, but House leaders and Gov. Pat McCrory warned increases in the interest rate over the next year could make the bond more expensive to finance than expected.
The latest Senate bill boosts the University of North Carolina system appropriation by $59 million, to $980 million, adding back three of the seven projects House leaders originally included but the Senate did not.
The restored projects are new business schools at North Carolina Central University and UNC-Pembroke and a science building renovation at Fayetteville State University. It also adds in $45 million for repairs and renovations at UNC campuses statewide.
The compromise sets aside $75 million for state parks, another Senate omission, but reduces the North Carolina Zoo's allocation from $45 million to $25 million.
To stay below the agreed-upon $2 billion price tag, House and Senate leaders had to decrease other spending areas.
Funding for water and sewer grants and loans, originally at $451 million in the Senate bill, has been reduced to $306 million.
The new version also includes $50 million less for community colleges, down to $350 from $400 million, and adds matching requirements for new construction funding in wealthier counties.
The National Guard would receive $70 million for improvements, rather than $83 million. Other projects received small reductions as well.
No transportation projects are included in the final version of the deal nor is any of the funding set aside for public school construction, as the House had first proposed.
The amended bill passed the Senate Finance Committee late Tuesday with no debate.
"I think it’s a fair bond, the best bond that 170 people can pass and that 9 million people can benefit from," said Chairman Sen. Bill Rabon, R-Brunswick.
House Bill 943 is expected to come up for a initial Senate vote Wednesday. House Speaker Tim Moore advised Tuesday afternoon that it would likely be voted on in the House early next week.