- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 22, 2015

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - An updated $2 billion bond proposal approved late Tuesday by a Senate committee would allocate more proceeds to University of North Carolina projects but slightly less to community colleges and infrastructure loans.

The contents of the measure reflect consensus reached by both House and Senate Republican leaders, lawmakers said. That includes holding the statewide referendum required before borrowing can begin on the same date as the presidential primary, which legislators are expected to set for March 15 in separate pending legislation. A preliminary bond bill rolled out Monday in the Senate Finance Committee would have set the referendum for the November 2016 general election.

Gov. Pat McCrory had sought a $2.85 billion bond package and a referendum this fall, but it’s too late for that date. Highway projects that McCrory also wanted remain left out.

The Senate was expected to hold the first of two required votes Wednesday on the new version of the package, which would initiate $935 million in borrowing for 14 UNC campus projects, compared to 11 in the initial Senate package. Projects at North Carolina Central University, Fayetteville State University and UNC-Pembroke were added to the list. Another $45 million was set aside for university repairs and renovations.

Senate Minority Leader Dan Blue, D-Wake, said he was pleased with the changes. Blue requested Monday that Republicans consider more projects for historically black colleges.

Sen. Kathy Harrington, R-Gaston, who is shepherding the Senate’s bond package through the chamber, said the measure reflected agreements made with the House. House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, said before Tuesday’s evening committee vote that he was on board with adjustments. Whatever passes the Senate also would need House approval. The House passed a larger bond package in August.

The state’s 58 community college campuses would now share $350 million, down from $400 million in the previous Senate package, and be required to provide matching funds for any new construction they wanted to perform. Water and sewer loans would now be $209.5 million, compared to $350.6 million in Monday’s legislation. As before, there also would be an added $100 million for drinking water and wastewater infrastructure grants.

New to Tuesday’s approved package is $75 million for more than 40 state parks; $3 million in grants for local parks for children and veterans with disabilities; $8.5 million to build out the new Samarcand Training Academy in Moore County for correctional and probation and parole officers; and $85 million for a plant sciences building shared between the Department of Agriculture and N.C. State University.

Other adjustments to bond proceeds include:

- $25 million for the North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro, compared to $45 million in the previous Senate bill.

- $94 million for a new Department of Agriculture lab, down from $100 million.

- $70 million for National Guard construction, compared to $82.7 million.

The bond is considered among the bills that Republican legislative leaders want to pass before the General Assembly adjourns for the year. Moore told colleagues Tuesday he still wanted the legislature to complete its business Sept. 30.

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