The leaders of the North Carolina General Assembly expect to have a more bipartisan budget process this year that should include record-setting construction funding for maintenance of existing facilities and infrastructure as well as new projects.
Senate Leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore, both Republicans, expressed optimism about the budget process as well as construction funding during a Carolinas Associated General Contractors (CAGC) luncheon meeting in Raleigh on June 10. They noted that they recently had “frank and productive” conversations about the budget with Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat.
“We realize there is more we agree on than not,” said Berger, Senate President Pro-Tem. Moore agreed, adding: “We have shared priorities.”
Speaking to nearly 100 attendees at the luncheon, the two top legislative leaders discussed wide-ranging issues, including more of a bipartisan approach with the governor on such issues as Apple’s recent announcement of a $1 billion investment in North Carolina as well as public school students returning to the classroom. The hour-long appearance of the two lawmakers was moderated by Dave Simpson, CAGC president and CEO, and the event was sponsored by Sentinel Risk Advisors.
Some details also were discussed about the agreement that Berger and Moore recently announced for spending $4.2 billion for a State Capital Infrastructure Fund. Asked by Simpson how that funding would be divided with building, highway-heavy and utility work and where it would go, Berger said with a smile: “Projects.”
Neither he nor Moore volunteered any more information, but Berger did say under questioning that the $4.2 billion would involve all state money. Additionally, there is another $5.3 billion in federal money for NC from the American Rescue Plan that could be used for certain types of infrastructure, but there are some strings attached to this money. Moore suggested that some of the federal money could be used to stabilize transportation funding in the short term.
Last year, the NC House passed a $3.1 billion construction bond package, mostly for higher education, community colleges and transportation. The Senate, favoring a pay-as-you-go method, did not approve the bond package. Last week in the lunch meeting, Moore said that with the state’s multi-billion-dollar budget surplus as well as sizable federal funding to the state, he no longer supports paying for public construction work with bonds and now prefers to pay-as-you-go.
“Capital spending will be significantly better than in the past,” Berger added. “You will see spending on maintenance and new projects.”
This story was originally published by the CAGC.