Legislation making its way through the North Carolina statehouse would borrow $3 billion to get transportation work done.
SB758, also known as the proposed North Carolina Bond Act, was approved unanimously by the Senate. It has moved to the House, where its version, HB1010, has advanced from the House Transportation and Finance committees.
Starting in fiscal year 2019, the legislation would permit the state to tap $300 million in bonds annually over the next decade. In addition, the state would be forbidden from using the money for toll work or non-highway projects.
Money from the state Highway Trust Fund would be used to pay back the debt. The fund receives fuel sales taxes and Division of Motor Vehicle fees.
Gov. Roy Cooper supports the Republican-led plan. The Democratic governor included the bond issue in his budget proposal.
Critics say including the bond in the budget would take away North Carolinians opportunity to have their say on the issue at the ballot. They want voters to make the final decision on any new state debt.
General obligation bonds typically must be approved by voters.
Advocates say another form of transportation revenue is necessary because they believe that fuel tax money is plateauing as more people use more fuel-efficient vehicles.
The legislation specifies the bond money would be divided between the state Department of Transportation’s “division needs projects” and “regional impact projects.”
The division needs designation involves the state’s 14 transportation divisions. The divisions are local groupings of counties.
Regional impact projects compete for funds in regions made up of two NCDOT transportation divisions.
The maximum amount of bonds for any one project could not exceed $300 million.
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