@NCCapitol

@NCCapitol

House proposes spending $4.1B to improve infrastructure

Posted August 3, 2015 6:06 p.m. EDT
Updated August 4, 2015 12:04 a.m. EDT

— House leaders have raised the ante on both their Senate counterparts and Gov. Pat McCrory, proposing a $4.155 billion program aimed at rebuilding roads and rehabbing and expanding aging infrastructure.

"We believe this proposal puts forward a great plan that both the Senate and the governor can pivot to and come together around," said Dean Arp, R-Union, who was put forward by House Republicans as lead author of the plan.

McCrory has been pressing for a $2.85 billion bond package split evenly between transportation and state buildings. Last week, Senate leaders put forward plans that would shift state spending to provide for billions in transportation costs over time but which borrowed no money.

The House proposal combines those two approaches.

Like the Senate, the House would stop transfers from the state Highway Fund to pay for transportation-related items such as the Highway Patrol that aren't directly related to construction costs. That gives the House $1.296 billion over the next six years. Arp's plan would throw in an additional $400 million to begin on projects McCrory has pressed for that are "shovel ready" because they have cleared key environmental assessments.

House leaders propose spending another $2.459 billion spread across state and local government, including $200 million for repairs and renovations of state buildings. Examples of spending include a $500 million matching program to help counties build new schools and expand older ones, with hundreds of millions more set aside for the University of North Carolina system and the Community College System. Parks, water and sewer systems and National Guard buildings are also on the project list.

"Planning ahead for our future is a key Republican principle, and not only a good Republican principle but a good North Carolina principle," House Speaker Tim Moore said.

House Republicans formally introduced their bond bill during a Rules Committee meeting Monday evening. It will then move to the chamber's Finance Committee at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday.

Like McCrory's proposal, the House bill would take the bonds to the voters in November.

"I applaud the House for listening to the people across our state who want to prepare North Carolina for the next generation," McCrory said in a prepared statement. "North Carolinians deserve a chance to express their voice on this issue in November."

In particular, McCrory said, "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."

Senate Republicans were initially cool to the proposal.

"Senate Republicans have expressed interest in considering a bond proposal this session," said Amy Auth, a spokeswoman for Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger. "They look forward to reviewing and discussing the House proposal."

Senate Rules Committee Chairman Tom Apodcaca, R-Henderson, said his chamber had been warming up to McCrory's proposal to spend on rehabbing and expanding buildings. But as for borrowing for transportation, "I don't think the chances are very good for that."

Law week, top senators, including Sen. Bill Rabon, R-Brunswick, argued that borrowing for transportation needs would cost the state more in the long-run and circumvent a process designed to make sure the most pressing projects are built first.

"We said we were going to build based on the data," Rabon insisted last week.

North Carolina's fiscal year began on July 1, and there is no permanent budget. Disagreement over borrowing and how to pay for roads have been some of the sticking points, which also include a debate over how to reform the state's Medicaid program. It's unclear whether the House's proposal will help move negotiations along or add yet another layer to the process.