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House’s $2.8 billion bond plan does not include Transportation Museum

By Elizabeth Cook

elizabeth.cook@salisburypost.com

RALEIGH — House Republicans agree with Gov. Pat McCrory that voters should be asked to sign off on $2.8 billion in borrowing — but for different projects.

The House voted 79-30 on the first of two required votes on the bond legislation Wednesday. Proceeds would go largely to public schools and higher education construction projects, state buildings and some road construction.

Among the McCrory proposals not included by the House are allocations for several state historic sites, such as the N.C. Transportation Museum in Spencer and Reed Gold Mine in Cabarrus County — projects advocated by Susan Kluttz, former mayor of Salisbury and now secretary of the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources.

Kluttz told the Post in a phone interview Wednesday she was thrilled that the House embraced putting a bond on the November ballot, as McCrory proposed. And she has not given up on the historic site projects.

“We’re still hopeful that they’ll be added back,” Kluttz said. “This is just the beginning.”

Kluttz has been traveling the state to promote the bond and raise awareness of the needs it could address.

“It’s still important that the people who feel strongly that our sites be included to let their legislators know how important it is and that they should support it,” Kluttz said.

Kelly Alexander, executive director of the Transportation Museum, said she was not ready to give up hope on the bond, either. “We don’t see it as dead in the water quite yet,” Alexander said. “We need all our supporters to stand with us.”

The $15 million in McCrory’s proposal for the Transportation Museum would be used for completing phase two of the museum’s power building renovations, building an outdoor events space, building offices, constructing a hands-on children’s exhibit, a playground and more.

Kevin Cherry, assistant secretary of cultural resources, said the department proposed bond projects at sites that could become more self-sustaining and impact tourism. The Reed Gold Mine proposal would create a camping area and year-round panning area, for example.

Cherry, who served as interim director of the Transportation Museum until recently, said the funds proposed for use there could transform the site.

“We have a lot of supporters in the legislature,” Cherry said. “If we do get in the bond proposal and it passes, we will stretch every dollar.”

The House bond legislation includes one historic site from McCrory’s proposal — $10.8 million for a new visitor’s center at the USS North Carolina Battleship in Wilmington.

McCrory wanted the debt largely divided between government infrastructure and highway projects, but the governor is still getting behind the House proposal. The House plan would put the borrowing on the ballot in November, like McCrory wants.

The measure would still have to clear the Senate, where Republicans are not that interested in more transportation debt.

Rowan County’s two members of the state House, Carl Ford and Harry Warren, voted against the bond proposal Wednesday, when it passed easily. A second vote is expected today.

Warren said he felt the proposal went far beyond immediate needs and included many projects that could wait until other state funds were available.

If voters approved the $2.86 billion bond, he said, the state’s debt service would be approximately $235 million in the first year and remain around $200 million for the next five to six years — a big commitment for future legislatures.

“Finally, I did not approve of the manner by which the bill rapidly advanced from the Finance Committee on Tuesday, to the House floor today,” Warren said Wednesday. Though Rep. Dean Arp, the bill’s sponsor did a good job of presenting the bill on the floor, Warren said, members did not have enough time to study the bill and understand its nuances.

Eventually the bond legislation will be taken up in the Senate, where Rowan is represented by Sen. Andrew Brock, R-Mocksville, and Sen. Tom McInnis, R-Rockingham.

 

Bond proposals by McCrory, NC House at a glance

RALEIGH (AP) — A glance at proposed distribution of the proceeds of the $2.86 billion proposed debt package given tentative approval Wednesday by the North Carolina House, with comparisons to the “Connect NC” package offered by Gov. Pat McCrory that would propose nearly the same amount. Each bond package would be on the Nov. 3 ballot statewide:

House proposal:

18 University of North Carolina system construction projects $890 million

K-12 school construction, renovations $500 million*

Department of Transportation projects $400 million

Community college system construction for all 58 campuses $300 million

Courts $15 million*

Statewide capital repairs and renovations $200 million

Agriculture, including Department of Agriculture lab $195 million

North Carolina National Guard $93 million

State attractions, parks, historic sites, NC Zoo $135 million

Local parks for disabled, infrastructure $85 million*

Department of Public Safety $47 million

*money requires matching grants from counties.

McCrory (Connect NC) proposal:

Department of Transportation road and transit projects $1.67 billion

10 University of North Carolina construction projects $504 million

Community college system construction $200 million

Military-related projects, including North Carolina National Guard $87 million

Department of Public Safety $62 million

Department of Health and Human Services $51 million

Department of Environment and Natural Resources $112 million

Department of Cultural Resources $76 million

Department of Agriculture $11 million

Department of Administration $5 million

Office of Information Technology Services $31 million

Courts $ 15 million

In addition, the House proposes halting an annual transfer of $216 million from the Highway Fund to the state’s general fund. Proceeds of nearly $1.3 billion over six years would be used to pay for additional road projects with cash and not additional debt. The transfer issue would be negotiated separately from the House bond bill.

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