'Connect NC' Bond Passes Senate With No Money For Connections

Sep 23, 2015

The logo of 'Connect NC', Gov. McCrory's bond proposal.
Credit Courtesy of connect.nc.gov

The North Carolina Senate has given their tentative approval to a $2 billion bond plan championed by Governor Pat McCrory. But a funny thing happened as the bill went from proposal to passage.

When Governor McCrory introduced the bond package during his state of the state speech in February, it was a $3 billion bonanza of projects which included new buildings for state government and universities and more money for state parks. But the cornerstone of his proposal was "a transportation bond of $1.2 billion that will allow for the quicker construction of projects in the 25 year plan."

In fact new money for roads, bridges, ports and other transportation projects were so key to the initiative that McCrory dubbed it ‘Connect NC.’

That name remains but all money for connections has been stripped out of the Connect NC bill. There is money for an academic building boom, "$980 million for 14 campus capital projects across the UNC system," Senator Kathy Harrington, Republican of Gaston County told her colleagues, plus "$350 million to the North Carolina Community College System’s 58 campuses for new construction. And $75 million for state parks and money for sewer and water line projects. But the Senate’s plan cuts roughly a billion dollars from McCrory’s proposal by eliminating all road, bridge and transportation projects from the plan.

Now the General Assembly says not to worry, they’ve ended a yearly transfer of $216 million from the state’s transportation budget to the highway patrol. That money, lawmakers say, will be enough to pay for the roads. But some in our area aren’t buying it. "It’s more like putting a Band-Aid on a head wound," says Bill Thunberg, the Executive Director of the Lake Norman Regional Transportation Commission. $216 million is a start but Thunberg points out just one project on I-77 South, could use all of that money, for years. "That’s going to be a billion dollar project probably. Just widening from Charlotte to the South Carolina line." If these bonds are passed by the House and signed into law the measure will appear as a referendum on the March primary ballot.