McCrory may have to battle conservatives to get bond issues on ballot

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While many have been focused squarely on Jones Street and the state budget, Gov. Pat McCrory has been on a three-month road show pushing his proposal "Connect NC" to borrow billions of dollars to pay for roads and infrastructure. (WTVD)

While many have been focused squarely on Jones Street and the state budget, Gov. Pat McCrory has been on a three-month road show pushing his proposal "Connect NC" to borrow billions of dollars to pay for roads and infrastructure.

McCrory wants two bonds to be put on the November ballot: one for highway projects ($1.37B) and one for infrastructure like state buildings and college campuses ($1.48B).

"The people behind me who are visiting Raleigh today get it," McCrory said, flanked by about 150 civic leaders from around the state. "They get that we have to invest in the future now and the longer we delay the more expensive it's going to get."

However, analysts say convincing conservative lawmakers of that could be a heavy lift.

"The governor has done a great job of going around the state and basically getting support," said Meredith College Political Science professor David McLennan. "Municipalities are behind this, counties are behind this, colleges are behind this. Conservatives aren't totally behind this."

Why not? McLennan said it's partly the $3 billion price tage and partly the projects the money will pay for.

"The governor has done a good job of spreading projects around the state but that doesn't mean that individual legislators are kind of on board with every particular project," said McLennan.

McLennan also pointed out another potential problem that may be the proverbial, political elephant in the living room: ego. Among the lawmakers McLennan sees as most opposed to these bond referendums is Senate President Pro-Tem Phil Berger.

In the past couple months, Berger has been lukewarm at best to the concept.

"I don't think there's substantial support for the transportation bonds," Berger said a few weeks back. "We think there's a way to get dollars into transportation from current transportation taxes that will address the funding issues that would be satisfied by the bonds on a short-term basis but satisfy them on a long-term basis."

"I think we've gotten to a point in their relationship where everything is about kind of a one-upsmanship," McLennan said of Berger's relationship with McCrory. "Whether it's the budget, whether it's this court fight over the appointment to the coal ash commission, whether it's the transportation or infrastructure bonds. These two guys really don't seem to get along at all and have vastly different ideas about the direction of the state."

Still, supporters of the bond say it's about the state's needs, not its leaders' personalities.

"This bond package really has something for everyone," said Fayetteville mayor Nat Robertson. "It puts over 15,000 people to work. There's projects in almost every county in the state and, quite honestly, now is the time to do it because interest rates are so low. Our infrastructure is not what it should be. Our roads are not what they need to be and to sustain the growth. This is something that's very important for most of the counties in the state of North Carolina."

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