State Treasurer Dale Folwell announced today a proposal that the Build NC Bond Act be put to the voters of the state for approval or denial.
The proposed draft, if passed by the North Carolina General Assembly in its current form, would allow the NC Department of Transportation (NCDOT) to issue special indebtedness bonds of up to $3 billion over ten years for transportation projects.
In asking for the projects to go to a vote, Folwell would be pushing control of the bonds away from his office as the draft legislation would give the state treasurer the authority to issue the bonds.
The bonds would be paid using money from the Highway Trust Fund, which is supported by fuel taxes.
“I’m not against more money for transportation nor am I opposed to the goals of those who support the proposed bonds, Folwell said. “I’m against the issuance of any debt that does not meet my guiding principles. I think we need more transparency so that people can decide whether they want to take on more debt in this environment.”
Folwell believes that any new debt must be approved by the voters and that all expenditures of the bond proceeds must be subject to the Strategic Transportation Investment Process.
Folwell also said that all borrowing must adhere to the state’s debt affordability limits.
Folwell raised the specter that the proposed additional debt from this highway bonding is coming at a time when some are calling for the approval of $1.9 billion in school construction bonds.
If the Build NC Bond Act passes along with bonds for school construction Folwell said that the combined state debt would more than double, including the $1.8 billion in voter-approved Connect NC bonds that have yet to be issued.
“As the keeper of the public purse, I’m in favor of making government simple and streamlining the process for efficiency’s sake,” Folwell said. “However, it’s important for the people to understand that this additional debt is being issued at a time when we have almost $50 billion in pension and health care liabilities.”