RALEIGH – Republican State Treasurer Dale Folwell said Monday that the proposed Build NC Bond Act should be put on the ballot for a public vote. The proposed draft, if passed by the North Carolina General Assembly in its current form, would allow the N.C. Department of Transportation to issue special indebtedness bonds of up to $3 billion over ten years for transportation projects. The bonds would be paid using money from the Highway Trust Fund, which is supported by fuel taxes – a.k.a. the NCDOT could sign you Joe and Jane Taxpayer up for billions in special debts.
“I’m not against more money for transportation nor am I opposed to the goals of those who support the proposed bonds,” said Folwell.
“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’s principles are that any debt must be voter approved, all expenditures of the bond proceeds must be subject to the Strategic Transportation Investment Process and all borrowing must adhere to the state’s debt affordability limits.
The proposed additional debt comes 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 the combined state debt would more than double, including $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,” said Folwell.
“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.”
Republicans on Jones Street like to brag about how conservative fiscal reforms got the State out of billions in debt hanging over from Democrats previous leadership. So why are they so willing to sign us up for more and more debt?
Folwell has proven himself, time and again, as an honorable fiduciary when it comes to the tax dollars of North Carolina citizens, and this request regarding the latest bond act is no different.
The North Carolina people should have a say in any new debts incurred, no matter what they are for. Even when on the ballot, new debt initiatives are usually easy to sell.Voters tend to see a harmless bond name and don’t always associate it with their haard earned tax money.
We witnessed that with the Connect NC bond sale. However, when that money starts getting spent on pet projects in select politician’s districts it doesn’t have the same ring to it.
Still, if North Carolina taxpayers are going to be on the hook for what amounts to a new government credit card, making sure citizens have a say in the matter via the ballot box is the least Jones Street can do.