In spite of North Carolina’s overwhelming public opposition to the state government issuing more state debt without voter approval, Rep. Bill Owens (D-Camden) seeks to do just that. HB 137 Two-Thirds Bond would authorize the issuance of new state debt totaling $138.5 million over the next two years – without voter approval.
A “two-thirds bond” is in reference to the requirement that the total principle of the new bonds can not exceed an amount two-thirds of the total state outstanding indebtedness paid off during the last two years. In other words, if the state paid down $300 million of its debt in the last two years, the amount of the “two third bonds” to be issued can not exceed $200 million.
The bond proceeds from HB 137would be used for the following purposes: $23.5 million to complete Phase One of the Highway Patrol Training Facility, for the Department of Crime Control and Public Safety; $15 million to complete the School of Aviation Complex at Elizabeth City State University; and $100 million to repair and renovate State facilities and related infrastructure.
One has to wonder what makes Owens think that state government just doesn’t have enough debt already. Just since 2000, per capita state debt has more than doubled, and annual debt service payments have more than tripled – exploding by more than half a billion dollars. In fact, debt service payments are projected to consume 3.5% of next year’s state budget – up dramatically from just 1.3% in the 2000 budget year.
North Carolina voters have not had a vote on new state debt in over a decade. Thanks to the lack of this accountability measure, state debt has exploded. But Rep. Owens wants to use the taxpayer’s credit card some more anyway, without first asking permission.
Because it goes against such universal public opposition and is so fiscally irresponsible, HB 137 is this week’s “Bad Bill of the Week.”