08/20/04 — Wayne chamber supports Amendment One

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Wayne chamber supports Amendment One

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on August 20, 2004 2:04 PM

The Wayne County Chamber of Commerce and the town of Smithfield are among more than 100 cities and organizations that are backing an idea to allow local governments to approve bonds without a vote of the people.

"Amendment One," which would allow local governments to issue self-financing bonds without a referendum, will be on the statewide ballot in November.

These bonds are used to pay for public improvements in partnership with private investment within a designated development district. Projects can include streets, water and sewer service, and sidewalks.

The additional tax revenues from the increased property values in the district are used to pay off the bonds. No tax increases are necessary to pay off self-financing bonds, say its supporters.

But Chad Adams with the John Locke Foundation says the issue comes up every 11 years, and voters have defeated legislative measures calling for such financing. It's "simply another way to raise government debt without specific voter approval."

He says people wanting the policy change realize that voters probably won't support anything with the word "tax" in it, so they changed the name to "self-financed bonds."

"You will now hear growing support for 'Amendment One,'" he says. "This sounds innocent. But in all honesty, if they have to change the name twice, it's probably still a bad idea."

Self-financing bonds, which are currently used in 48 other states, can also finance improvements for projects to redevelop abandoned factories and plants, to build new manufacturing plants, affordable housing, community revitalization, business incubators and commercial development and clean up environmentally damaged areas, backers say.

North Carolina's approach to these bonds has traditionally been one of the most conservative in the country, say the bond's supporters.

All bonds must be approved by the state Local Government Commission. Supporters say that in more than 50 years, no local bond approved by the commission has defaulted.

The development districts would be limited to 5 percent of a government's jurisdiction and only 20 percent outside of a central business district can be retail.

Amendment One is the brainchild of a group called North Carolinians for Jobs and Progress, which says its mission is to bring jobs to North Carolina.