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North Carolina OKs borrowing $2 billion for infrastructure

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory won more than a chance to run for governor again Tuesday night. Voters also overwhelmingly approved a $2 billion bond package he has been speaking for across the state.

The bond package won about two-thirds of the vote.

About two-thirds of the borrowed money will go toward new buildings, repairs and renovations at all University of North Carolina system and community college campuses. The rest would go for local government water and sewer projects and construction money for parks, the North Carolina Zoo, the National Guard and the Department of Agriculture.

McCrory, who won his primary too on Tuesday, was joined by former Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton and other Democrats in pushing for the bond. The governor said it shows a bipartisan effort aimed at helping the state’s future can succeed.

“North Carolina has sent a message to the nation that people can come together and work to pass a bond package that will benefit future generations,” McCrory said in a statement.

McCrory and others said North Carolina has added 2 million people since the last borrowing package was approved in 2000, and that kind of growth and the passage of time requires spending money.

Senate Minority Leader Dan Blue said lawmakers’ careful spending allowed the bond idea to work.

“Through years of staunch fiscal responsibility, this state is in a unique position post-recession. It is time to make some sound investments in this state and preserve our infrastructure and resources,” said Blue, D-Wake.

There wasn’t much organized opposition to the bond bill. Critics said there were unnecessary projects on the list, and the things that needed to be built or repaired could be paid for without borrowing. But they acknowledged they had a tough fight.

John Suddath, 80, voted for the bonds at a school in Raleigh near North Carolina State University. Suddath said he wishes the state would have borrowed more with cheap interest rates and used that money to improve roads and bridges. McCrory asked for a bigger bond package to include road projects, but legislators turned him down, opting to pay for roads through transportation funds.

“I believe in public education, and with interest rates so low, it is the most effective way of dealing with capital costs,” Suddath said.

The Council of State will have to sign off on issuing the debt, but that is a routine step since lawmakers have already decided where to spend the money.

The bond package will give $980 million for the University of North Carolina system. All 58 community colleges in North Carolina will split $350 million, with local matching funds needed for new construction.

Nearly $310 million will go to water and wastewater system projects, with $100 million of the amount earmarked for grants and the rest for loans.

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