Governor Pat McCrory made his first public speech for a bond referendum on Tuesday, urging North Carolina voters to approve $2 billion in borrowing for public service investments such as building new science education and research facilities on college campuses, new facilities for the National Guard, and sewage renovations in small towns.
McCrory, who spent much of 2015 convincing state lawmakers to put the referendum on the ballot, was joined by a handful of key legislators, including House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate Democratic Leader Dan Blue, at an event on the campus of NC State University in Raleigh. Organizers said Senate Leader Phil Berger, often considered the state's most influential elected official, could not attend because he had a scheduling conflict.
“North Carolina is the ninth most populous state. North Carolina is the big time now,” McCrory told a crowd of more than 100. “We have a choice. Do we prepare for the future, or do we want the leaders of the future to have to react to what we didn’t do?”
Tuesday’s speeches were the official beginning of a campaign for the referendum, which will be on the ballot March 15. Organizers, led by former state Supreme Court Justice Bob Orr, have been soliciting financial contributions for what they hope will be $3.3 million for advertising, social media, mailers and phone calls. They have raised almost half the amount, they said.
So far, there is no organized opposition to the referendum. The state last held a referendum for bonds in 2000.
The Connect NC campaign is planning information sessions throughout the state. The campaign has scheduled events through January in more than 20 counties.