N.C. House and Senate leaders say they’ve agreed to hold the bond referendum sought by Gov. Pat McCrory next year, but it’s unclear how much the state would borrow and what projects would be funded.
House Speaker Tim Moore said Thursday that the two chambers have reached a deal. The House had already voted to back a $2.85 billion bond referendum for next year’s presidential primary. But Senate Republicans have been hesitant about the plan, and the final amount will be lower.
“There will be a bond, and it will be $2 billion,” Moore said, adding that the timing of the vote hasn’t been resolved. McCrory had sought a special election this fall to take advantage of low interest rates, but Moore said the referendum won’t happen until sometime next year.
Moore said the Senate has agreed to the $2 billion figure, but Senate Majority Leader Harry Brown said Thursday that the amount of borrowing remains unresolved. Senate leaders prefer a $1.5 billion bond package, he said.
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“A compromise in the middle is my guess, but that will be worked out very soon,” Brown told reporters. “There has been an agreement that we will do a bond package.”
The House bond package focused more heavily on state facility construction than McCrory’s original proposal, which split bond proposals evenly between infrastructure and transportation projects. And while McCrory’s bond package didn’t allocate bond money toward K-12 education, the House would put $500 million into a “public schools capital assistance program” to help fund new construction and renovations.
Some Republican senators had said bond money shouldn’t go toward local government projects like new schools.
Holding a bond vote has been a top priority for McCrory, who first rolled out the “Connect NC” plan in April. The governor originally sought $1.5 billion for highway projects and $1.5 billion to fix up state facilities.
Even in a scaled-back form, the referendum would be among the biggest borrowing packages put to voters since 2000, when a $3.1 billion bond for new community college and university facilities passed with 73 percent of the vote.