State needs Connect NC bond

Published March 4, 2016

Editorial by Winston-Salem Journal, March 4, 2016.

The $2-billion bond package being promoted by Gov. Pat McCrory has received strong support from business leaders, government officials and high-level educators throughout the state. But the support that matters most will be that which comes from state residents up to March 15 as they vote for it on the primary election ballot.

The up-or-down March vote will be the decider on this package, which would be beneficial for the state.

The ambitious package would support a broad spectrum of projects statewide. Its emphasis is on improving our infrastructure and boosting our educational resources, thus boosting the economy. Many of its potential beneficiaries are close to home for Triad and Piedmont residents.

They include a $50-million sciences building at Winston-Salem State University, $10.9 million for repairs and renovations at the UNC School of the Arts and $5.8 million in campus improvements at Forsyth Technical Community College. About two-thirds of the bond money would go to education projects throughout the state.

Some of the bond money would also go to improvements in area state parks. Hanging Rock State Park would receive $2.1 million for upgrades at its 716-acre Vade Mecum parcel. Pilot Mountain State Park would receive $4.482 million for a visitor center that would include space for exhibits, meeting rooms and additional parking. Stone Mountain State Park would receive $1.338 million to expand the visitor center and rangers’ offices, and $4.5 million would buy additional land at Mayo River State Park in Rockingham County and the Mount Jefferson and Yellow Mountain state natural areas, in Ashe County and Avery County, respectively.

Money would also go to water and sewer systems, the state’s National Guard, the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Public Safety.

These are the first state bonds to be issued since 2000. Since then, many more people have moved to North Carolina, but our investments have not kept up with this growth.

Particularly because of the economic downturn, many facilities that would normally have been maintained or improved have been left to decay. The bond would go a long way toward setting things right. And with interest rates low, there’s little risk to the state’s credit rating.

The question for some will be whether the projects covered by the bond are truly “needs” or just “wants.” The answer is simple: For a first-class university system that will continue to attract students, these are needs. They will help create a well-educated workforce that will draw jobs and lead to a stronger economy.

For a park system that continues to refresh our residents and attract tourism from other states, these are needs.

For the future of a state that prides itself on the high quality of resources it offers both residents and visitors, these are essentials.