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A recent column advocated for a state bond issue citing a Debt Affordability Advisory Committee study that showed North Carolina could well afford borrowing money against issued bonds. (“Cooper’s bond plan a responsible path forward,” by Jean Farmer-Butterfield, Feb. 11.)
Just because you can borrow money does not mean it makes sense to do so. The governor proposed a $3.9 billion bond to upgrade and build new schools and upgrade aging water and sewer systems. While these proposed improvements are worthwhile, the bond proposed covers a wide variety of projects outside these two issues and seems to be nothing more than an effort to extend the regular state budget.
Even if it were only for schools and water/sewer lines, it still does not designate funds to specific projects. In that vein, the bond would not address real problems, it just raises money that becomes the slush fund for pet projects. It is cumbersome to issue bonds for each project, but the purpose of government bonds is to raise money for a specified need outside of the regular budget plan.
I know towns of Wilson County, like Black Creek and Saratoga, have real issues with sewer and water lines and they struggle with getting state funding for upgrades. The current bond proposal would only allow them to apply for funding, not guarantee they would get the help they truly need. A real solution would be for the state to issue a bond based on identified projects by each county for required water and sewer line upgrades, distributed first where the greatest need exists — i.e, sanitary conditions, water quality, etc. — and not be allowed to be used for any other purpose.
The same goes for our schools. All of Wilson County schools need some upgrade and some need outright replacement. The bond proposal provides distribution of funds to each county but does not designate specific projects. The funds should be aligned with clear purpose so that money raised in the bond is used for an identified project.
Finally, issuing a bond is not free money. We, the state taxpayers, must pay it back with interest. It still costs the taxpayer. Citizens should be able to see how their money is being used and feel a benefit of the cost.
The writer is the Republican candidate for N.C. House District 24.