Correction: The economic report mention is this story was released by the N.C. Department of Commerce.
Gov. Roy Cooper is again pushing a statewide bond referendum for school construction and renovation following good financial news this week from the Debt Affordability Advisory Committee.
The committee reported that the state can afford to borrow up to $11 billion over the next 10 years.
In addition to $2 billion for K-12 schools, Cooper’s $3.9 billion spending proposal includes $500 million each for community colleges and UNC System schools, $800 million for local water and sewer projects and $100 million for the N.C. History Museum and the N.C. Zoo. Click here to see the bond proposal.
Cooper also proposed a $3.9 billion bond referendum last summer.
“We must build schools to get our children out of trailers and reduce class sizes, and a bond now at extremely low interest rates is affordable and necessary,” Cooper said in a statement. “Our state is growing at a remarkable pace, and we should let the people vote on a bond that would help us keep up with the demands of that growth.”
According to the N.C. Department of Commerce’s most recent economic report, the state’s population grew about 1.1% between 2017-18, adding about 113,000 people. North Carolina’s growth outpaced the nation (0.6%) and the South (0.9 percent).
And since 2010, the state’s population has grown about 8.5 %, nearly three percentage points better than the rest of the nation, which grew at 5.8 % clip.
Cooper’s bond proposal was immediately criticized by State Sen. Harry Brown, a Republican from Jacksonville, who contends a debt-financed bond would cost taxpayers $1 billion in unnecessary interest payments.
It’s an argument Brown made often during budget negotiations last summer when the GOP proposed a $4.4 billion “pay-as-you-go” scheme to build new schools over a 10-year period.
“Why in the world would we max out the credit card when we can just use cash to build new schools instead?” Brown asked. “It doesn’t make a lick of sense.”
Cooper noted in his press release that Republican leaders never responded to a compromise version of his school construction proposal last year that did not contain a bond.
He argues that a bond is “fiscally responsible” because it offers “stability for school districts, college and universities and local governments planning their budgets.