NC Senate will consider bond referendum for highway, utility and building projects

NC state Sen. Phil Berger
NC state Sen. Phil Berger

The NC Senate will consider a bond referendum to provide badly needed construction funding for highway-heavy, building and utility work, its top leader says.

In a Carolinas Associated General Contractors (CAGC) Virtual Luncheon on Sept. 18, Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger said the Senate will consider a major bond referendum for construction after the NC General Assembly convenes its long session on Jan. 13, 2021.

He also said that, in the near future, he expects to see the sale of $700 million of BUILD NC bonds for the NC Department of Transportation. The Build NC bonds are a financial tool considered to be critical to the recovery of NCDOT and its ability to use this money toward existing projects and serve as a cushion to let new contracts.

“We need to make sure we are doing what needs to be done,” Berger said. “We certainly have some dire needs around the state,” Beger said, as originally reported by CAGC on its website.

Berger, who as Senate President Pro Tem runs the NC Senate, made the comments in a 45-minute presentation to more than 80 CAGC members in CAGC’s monthly NC Virtual Luncheon. The discussion, moderated by CAGC president and CEO Dave Simpson, drew positive responses from CAGC luncheon participants as well as questions.

Simpson noted that the NC House, before legislative adjournment this year, passed House Bill 1225 (Education and Transportation Bond Act) that would provide $3.1 billion for construction education and transportation, including $1.25B for NCDOT and $1.8B for vertical construction for education as well as related utility work. The House passed the bill, with strong support of NC House Speaker Tim Moore (who appeared at our recent CAGC Virtual Summer Summit), but the Senate did not.

Asked about the Senate not passing the $3.1 billion bond bill, Berger told CAGC participants that his chamber was more inclined to finance construction as a pay-as-you-go method rather than bonds. He added, however, that with the challenges posed by COVID-19 and revenue shortfalls, a bond referendum would be considered that would provide construction funding for:

  • Highway-heavy and transportation work.
  • Building, including universities, community colleges and K-12 schools. Berger noted that while public school funding is traditionally financed through the counties and not a state obligation, “I do think it is likely that K-12 (construction funding) will be part of the package that is proposed.”
  • Water and sewer utility work.

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