The $2.85 billion bond proposal pushed by Gov. Pat McCrory is facing bleak prospects in the Senate.
After the House voted 76-29 last week to put a bond referendum on the ballot in next year’s presidential primary, the Senate on Monday referred House Bill 943 to its Ways and Means Committee – widely known as the “graveyard” of the Senate because it hasn’t met in years.
The committee is chaired by Sen. Tom Apodaca, the powerful Republican Rules Chairman. Asked about the bond package’s fate Monday afternoon, Apodaca offered a tongue-in-cheek response.
“That bill needs a lot – a lot – of work, and so Ways and Means is the perfect place to send it to be overhauled,” he said with a laugh.
The McCrory administration was critical of the Senate’s move. “This shows a total lack of respect for the voters of North Carolina, who deserve a voice in determining our state’s future,” spokesman Josh Ellis said in an email.
Senate leaders have pushed to add many transportation projects from McCrory’s original bond plan to the budget, paying for them by eliminating a transfer of money from the highway fund. The House agreed with that approach and opted to direct most bond proceeds to infrastructure projects such as public school and university construction.
The plan would direct $2.46 billion toward infrastructure projects like university and school construction and $400 million toward transportation. An additional $1.3 billion in transportation projects would be funded through budget allocations without borrowing, under the House plan.
A number of House Republicans voted against the plan, arguing the state shouldn’t take on more debt. But House GOP leaders pointed to data showing the borrowing wouldn’t come close to the state’s debt capacity and wouldn’t impact its AAA bond rating.
A referral to the Ways and Means Committee doesn’t necessarily mean a bill will be dead forever. Last week, Senate leaders moved the House’s Medicaid reform bill out of the committee, then made major changes that made it more closely match the Senate’s proposal to overhaul Medicaid.