Editorial: Bond plan will address key needs for schools and health, boosts jobs

Posted September 2, 2020 5:00 a.m. EDT

School construction sign

CBC Editorial: Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2020; Editorial #8582
The following is the opinion of Capitol Broadcasting Company.

North Carolina legislators have an opportunity, when they convene today, to help create jobs and provide much-needed improvements to critical local infrastructure, provide better spaces for students to learn and increase accessibility and innovation in health care throughout the state.

It is the right thing to do. It meets critical needs. It is financially prudent – interest rates have never been more favorable.  The state is in position to take advantage of the lowest rates possible and the state Treasurer says there is the capacity to handle it.

Gov. Roy Cooper last week asked the General Assembly to move ahead, and give the state’s voters the chance to approve $4.3 billion in bond issues to pay for improvements to local water and sewer systems, finance renovation and new construction for school facilities and improved housing.

Further, he proposed the legislature approve investing $988 million, through a special bond, to pay for the expansion of health care infrastructure to:

  • Support vaccine development and public health efforts led by the University of North Carolina.
  • Expand highspeed internet in rural and underserved areas to enable telehealth and other medical services.
  • Expand and upgrade isolation facilities at state hospitals and corrections facilities.
  • Renovate and expand state and regional health labs and treatment centers.
  • Relocate the state Department of Health and Human Services from Dorothea Dix Park.

The current health and economic crisis the state faces won’t disappear. It takes focused efforts, programs, research and planning. The education and infrastructure program that Cooper offers is purposeful.  It doesn’t just provide needed facilities for communities but also provides very significant job opportunities and generates local consumer spending.

Every $1 million invested creates more than a dozen direct jobs – or 51,600 in for the $4.3 billion proposed along with and 28 indirect jobs – or about 120,400 more.

In addition to the lower cost of borrowing money, economics estimate that costs of construction are expected to be lower during the economic recovery.

All North Carolina public schools have long-standing and urgent needs. Out-dated facilities need to be upgraded. More facilities are needed to meet the demand to reduce class size to make sure all students have the opportunity for a quality education – a right our State Constitution demands.

This is a long-standing need. It is past time the General Assembly gives voters the opportunity to vote on a $2 billion bond issue to improve their local school facilities at a reasonable cost.

The $500 million each for UNC system and Community College system construction needs will help assure that facilities stay current and these higher education institutions can continue to meet needs for the latest research and instruction for faculty and students.

Aging water and sewer systems throughout the state present both limits on the ability of communities to grow and provide safe and reliable services to residents and businesses. The $500 million to assist these systems is critical for both the state’s urban areas – but also in rural communities where there is increased demand.

The bond issues proposed by Cooper will provide an economic stimulus, address critical school facility needs and improve community health and livability.

It is the right time to meet these important needs. It is the best price and wise opportunity for taxpayers. Legislators need to pass these bond issues now.

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