During early voting and the 2016 primary on Tuesday, March 15, voters in North Carolina will have the opportunity to vote for or against a $2 billion bond package first introduced by Gov. Pat McCrory and approved by the Republican legislature in the N.C. General Assembly this past summer.
Depending on the number of races in a county on a particular party’s ballot, voters likely have to flip the ballot over to see the section on the bond referendum. Below is the language voters will see and two op-eds on why voters should or shouldn’t vote for the Connect NC Public Improvement Bond:
On why everyone should vote against the bond
By Nicole Revels
Director of NC Against the Bond.
On the March 15 primary election ballot, NC residents will be asked to vote for or against a proposal to borrow 2 billion dollars in the form of a bond. I intend to vote AGAINST the bond.
A bond is not free money, it’s a method of spending money now and leaving future generations of taxpayers to pick up the tab later. Many legislators are supporting the bond because it’s a way for them to spend money on grandiose projects and earn political points back home while not having to claim the expenditures as an operating budget spending increase. The problem is that they’re piling debt onto today’s children. Another term for this is deferred taxation. It is a much more fiscally responsible practice to prioritize items by their importance and pay as we go.
There is no transportation nor k-12 education funding within the bond. I emphasize that fact because many voters have been misled by pro-bond marketing, which describes the measure as an “infrastructure and education” funding bill. The bond was originally proposed as a transportation funding bill titled “Connect NC,” but by final adoption, all road funding was stripped from the bill, a move that some legislators have dubbed a “bait and switch.”
Bond proponents tout the necessity of the water/sewer line item within the $2 billion bond package, but there is actually no specific allocation within the bond legislation for any single water/sewer project. The plan is to place $309 million into a fund to hold onto for future allocation once a municipality applies to receive them. It makes no sense for our state to borrow money simply to store it away for potential future redistribution to municipalities, paying millions in interest in the meantime!
There’s also a section of the bill titled “reallocation” which enables legislators to change the bond money allocations after the bond is passed. Such a provision means that voters have no guarantee that what they think they’re voting on is what the funding will actually be used for. North Carolina’s history with the gas tax being diverted to purposes other than roads should remind us that we need better guarantees over allocation before signing off on a blank check.
66% of the $2 billion will be given to the NC university and community college systems for new buildings and renovations. Very few details of the specific projects have been revealed. Whether community colleges are renovating classrooms or building tennis courts and swimming pools with the bond money, we do not know. Community colleges are not required to submit their specific multi-million dollar projects for which the funding will be used until after the bond is approved by voters!
$170 million is appropriated to “agriculture.” That line item is another deception to trick people into believing that the bond would help “farmers.” Not one dollar of the bond goes to farmers. The “agriculture” funding is for new Taj Mahal “agricultural research” buildings at the NC State University campus. In other words, it’s more money to the university system hidden under a different label.
The bond is an omnibus spending bill for items that should be considered individually and funded during the budget adoption process based on their own merits. The taxpayers of North Carolina will be forced to pay the $2 billion debt and interest, whether by direct tax increase or by taking money away from other future priorities in order to pay for the projects of today.
Bond proponents claim that adopting this bond is equivalent to a household adopting a mortgage to purchase a home. That claim has no merit. The entirety of this bond is less than 10% of our state’s annual operating budget. There’s no logical comparison of this bond & our state budget to the cost of a home to a household budget. If the cost of a home was less than 10% of a household’s expense budget for 1 year then the home could be paid for without the need for a mortgage! North Carolina households have to be resourceful with our budgets, and legislators need to do the same. Vote AGAINST the $2 BILLION bond debt proposal.
Find out more info at www.Againstthebond.com.
What the Connect NC bond referendum could do for health care in North Carolina
By Dr. Sheri N. Everts
Chancellor, Appalachian State University
Across the state, regardless of political affiliation, North Carolinians recognize the importance of the Connect NC public improvement bond referendum, because the support for education, parks, safety, recreation, and water and sewer infrastructure which will go to 76 counties across our state, is beneficial to the entire state, and vital to North Carolina’s competitiveness. As Chancellor of Appalachian State University, I recognize the many ways our state will benefit from a $980 million investment in one of the best education systems in the world.
Investments in education are long term investments, because they position our state for strength in areas of innovation and business development. While there has been some discussion about whether our state can afford to take on this debt, the numbers are clear: North Carolina is one of only 10 states with AAA credit rating from all three major ratings agencies. This top credit rating saves North Carolina taxpayers millions of dollars. Because our state is paying off existing debt rapidly, overall debt levels will not increase with this new bond.
What impact will this bond have on Western North Carolina? The benefits to the region will include not only a boost to economic activity, but also improved health care. Appalachian State University’s role in this growth is in providing quality health care professionals for citizens in rural areas.
In 2010, recognizing a growing demand for health professionals for North Carolina, particularly in rural areas, Appalachian State University created a College of Health Sciences. The vision of the Beaver College of Health Sciences (BCHS) is to become the preeminent and most comprehensive college of health professions in Western North Carolina. The BCHS now includes approximately 160 faculty and staff serving 3,300 students majoring in one of 10 undergraduate and five graduate degree programs. These programs are in the areas of exercise science, nursing, communication sciences and disorders, nutrition, health care management, social work, athletic training, recreation management, health and physical education and health promotion. Recently, the BCHS was approved to begin the Master of Science in Nursing degree and an online Master of Health Administration degree program. Appalachian is poised and ready to meet demand for qualified health care, which is critical in our state.
If the Connect NC bond proposal passes, Appalachian will receive $70 million to build a state-of–the-art teaching and research facility for the BCHS, which will foster the inter-professional education of future health care professionals. Continuing a partnership that has lasted well over a century, Appalachian Regional Healthcare System has generously agreed to donate the land for this new academic building to house the BCHS. Funds from the North Carolina General Assembly over the past two years have supported planning and design for the new building, and Appalachian is extremely appreciative of this critical investment. We have momentum.
Why is there a critical need for this facility? Currently, programs in the college are located in six buildings, including rental space off campus. Since its creation from existing programs across campus, the BCHS has experienced almost 60 percent growth in student enrollment in only four years. The college plans to add degree programs in critically needed health care professions, including physical therapy, occupational therapy and nurse practitioner. Additionally, a new collaborative partnership with Wake Forest School of Medicine has resulted in a Physician Assistant (PA) degree program in Boone. One of the most important benefits of a new building will be the ability to maximize our partnerships with practicing medical professionals, and provide inter-professional training, which is key to providing excellent health care to the citizens of our state.
Some of the college’s programs see 90 percent of graduates finding employment in their fields within a few months of graduation, and the vast majority of these are working to provide better health care in North Carolina.
Appalachian’s newest college is making a difference in the lives of our students and enhancing health and quality of life in our state and beyond. With the simple act of voting, you can help our faculty, staff and students make our state a place where our citizens live longer, healthier lives. Find out more at www.appstate.edu/go/bond, and vote on March 15.