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McCrory’s recommended $1 billion transportation bond unlikely to ‘find much traction’ in the legislature

Gov. Pat McCrory
Gov. Pat McCrory jsimmons@charlotteobserver.com

Gov. Pat McCrory has not given up on his support for a more than $1 billion bond to pay for further transportation investment in the state after he announced it Tuesday as part of his budget recommendation for the upcoming fiscal year.

Less than two weeks before McCrory is to leave office, he outlined his recommendations for the fiscal year 2017-18 budget. State law requires the outgoing governor to submit a budget proposal.

The announcement, which he made in a video, included changes in four key areas – education, mental health, the state’s budget reserves and transportation.

“My recommended budget supports a future transportation bond of over $1 billion that will anticipate and prepare for future road needs,” he said, adding that the bond would not require a tax increase.

No other details about the bond were immediately released.

McCrory proposed a similar $1.4 billion transportation bond in 2014 to “kick start” a list of 19, mostly rural, transportation projects.

These projects included urban loops in Fayetteville and Winston-Salem, along with rural highway improvements across the state. The only Triangle projects were U.S. 401 in Franklin and northern Wake counties, and N.C. 42 and Booker Dairy Road in Johnston County.

But the Republican-dominated N.C. General Assembly did not include road projects in the Connect NC bond referendum that voters passed this spring. Lawmakers instead generated transportation money through budget changes.

“I would doubt at this point that that is going to find much traction in the Senate,” Sen. Bill Rabon, co-chairman of the Senate transportation committee, said Tuesday.

He said he did not see the legislature, particularly the Senate, supporting a transportation bond until the N.C. Department of Transportation proved it could deliver projects in a timely manner.

“What the Senate does is going to be predicated by project delivery,” Rabon said. “We are not going to be collecting money or borrowing money and the taxpayers are paying for it when the projects aren’t being delivered. Pure and simple.”

He said the possibility that the federal government could create a much-discussed $1 trillion infrastructure fund also is something to consider.

Incoming Gov. Roy Cooper also has said he wants further investment in the state’s transportation network, and on several occasions, has talked up the idea of a transportation bond, citing low interest rates and construction costs.

Kathryn Trogdon: 919-829-4845: @KTrogdon

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