- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 23, 2015

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - What’s being billed as a consensus $2 billion borrowing proposal between North Carolina legislative leaders received strong initial bipartisan support Wednesday from the state Senate.

Senators voted 46-2 for the debt package, in which nearly $1.3 billion would be set aside for construction on 14 University of North Carolina campuses and for all 58 community colleges.

The borrowing would not occur unless a majority of voters agree in a referendum on the presidential primary date, which is expected to be in mid-March. It would mark the first statewide bond question on the ballot since 2000.

Lawmakers from both parties praised the proposal, which incorporates requests of Senate Finance Committee members and the House, according to Sen. Kathy Harrington, R-Gaston, who is shepherding the legislation. House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, said Tuesday he’s on board with the updated package.

Republican Gov. Pat McCrory had sought about $2.85 billion in debt, with some proceeds for transportation projects and a referendum date for this fall. But Senate and House members agreed recently on a $2 billion figure, with no money going to road construction, and the March vote.

A final Senate vote will be Thursday. The House also must vote on the agreed-to changes before the General Assembly likely adjourns for the year next week.

The bond package would set aside $935 million for specific UNC projects and another $45 million for repairs and renovations of university buildings. Portions of the $350 million in community college proceeds for new construction would require local matching grants that are most favorable to the state’s most economically distressed counties.

Other apportionment of debt projects would be:

- $209.5 million for loans to build water and sewer system projects, with another $100 million for drinking water and wastewater infrastructure grants.

- $75 million for more than 40 state parks;

- $85 million for a plant sciences building shared between the Department of Agriculture and N.C. State University.

- $25 million to replace the Africa Pavilion for the North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro.

- $94 million for a new Department of Agriculture lab.

- $70 million for National Guard construction.

- $8.5 million for the new Samarcand Training Academy in Moore County for correctional and probation and parole officers.

- $3 million in grants for local parks for children and veterans with disabilities.

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