The Hunt Library on NC State’s Centennial Campus was full of smiles Tuesday morning, all attending the official launch of Connect NC, the formal campaign to get a $2 billion bond approved by North Carolina Voters in the March 15th primaries.
Governor McCrory pitched a packed room of elected representatives, business leaders, and academic dignitaries to support the bond package. Running down a list of crumbling, outdated, and woefully inadequate facilities across the state, McCrory delivered a full-throated plea for fixing and upgrading North Carolina’s public infrastructure.
The General Assembly voted to put the bond package on the ballot in the last days of the 2015 legislative session, leaving voters to decide whether to use bonds to fund a series of investment in the UNC system, community colleges, local water and sewer systems, state parks, and the National Guard. (See below for a top-level breakdown of how the bond proceeds would be allocated. For more detail, a post from last year provides a full breakdown of the projects to be funded and how the bill changed during its final stages of approval.)
To his credit, Governor McCrory has clearly taken the time to visit some facilities, and he did not mince words about how badly the funds are needed. McCrory called some of our National Guard facilities “frankly disrespectful”, a science building at Western Carolina “an embarrassment”, and joked about feeling somewhat apprehensive that the roof of the Engineering and Science building at UNC Charlotte would fall through while he and his team were inspecting it.
It is important to remember some of the context surrounding the bond proposal. After years of recession and dwindling public investment, the need far outstrips what the bond would raise. Even if North Carolina voters pass the bond, much more investment will be needed to build the public infrastructure the modern economy demands. In addition, several rounds of deep tax cuts in recent years will make it hard to properly use and maintain the public facilities the bond would finance. Unless we plan to leave these facilities dark once they’re completed, state leaders are going to have to raise additional revenue or make painful cuts elsewhere.
Still, it was refreshing to witness a cheerful bipartisan call for investing in North Carolina’s economic future.
Allocation of bond funds:
- University of North Carolina – $980 million
- Community Colleges – $350 million
- Local Water/Sewer Infrastructure and Parks- $312.5 million
- State Parks, Zoo, and Attractions – $100 million
- National Guard and Public Safety – $87.5 million
- Agriculture – $179 million