N.C. House Republicans announced a new plan for allocating state construction funding Thursday, saying their proposal could make $3 billion in additional money available over the next decade.
State-funded construction on universities, government buildings, transportation and public schools is paid for through bonds and annual budget allocations.
A House bill filed this week would create a new State Capital and Infrastructure Fund that would receive a set amount of funding each year. The bill would automatically direct one-quarter of any budget surplus to the new fund, as well as 4 percent of the state’s net tax revenues.
“This is a new vision for North Carolina, and a paradigm shift in the way we provide long-term funding for our capital, infrastructure and transportation needs,” said Rep. Dean Arp, a Monroe Republican who sponsored the bill. “This simple and common sense plan applies basic financial principles to provide 150 percent more funding than the Connect NC bond.”
Voters last year approved Connect NC, a $2 billion bond referendum package for higher education and other government facilities. The money will be spent over six years.
The new proposal would not require a referendum “because it does not issue any new debt,” Arp said, adding that the Capital and Infrastructure Fund could also be used to pay off construction debt earlier than scheduled. The plan would reduce total state debt by 62 percent over the next 10 years, he said.
The legislature would decide how to spend money from the new fund, but options would be limited to new state facility construction, repair and renovation projects, transportation projects, utility infrastructure projects, and construction grants to local school districts and community colleges.
Bill sponsors said the measure would mean the state can afford to fund more projects. “This investment will ultimately create jobs in North Carolina, and it’ll do this by improving infrastructure and educational infrastructure to foster a better learning environment,” said Rep. Stephen Ross, a Burlington Republican and bill co-sponsor.
Arp said the proposal doesn’t so far have backing from Senate Republicans. In recent budgets, Senate leaders have typically sought less spending than their House counterparts.