ATLANTA -- The North Carolina legislature has finally approved a $740 million general obligation bond package to be sent to voters in November and has authorized issuance of $87.5 million of GO bonds for prisons, which have already been approved by voters.

The borrowing approval occurred last Saturday, the last day of the state's 1993 legislative session, at which lawmakers also authorized a capital budget totaling $209 million for fiscal 1994. The fiscal year began July 1.

If passed by voters this fall. the $704 million GO bond package would be the state's largest ever, surpassing the $300 million of debt for roads and $230 million for water projects authorized in 1977.

The package comprises $310 million for universities, $250 million for community colleges, $145 million for clean water projects, and $35 million for state parks, according to Dave Crotts, senior analyst and economist for the Legislative Fiscal Office.

Crotts said that legislative approval of the referendum became possible last Thursday after a conference committee worked out a compromise between a $734.2 million borrowing plan advanced by the state House of Representatives and a $748 million plan favored by the state Senate.

Under the House version, $303 million of GOs would have been issued for the state university system, $311.2 for community colleges, and $120 million for clean water programs. This compares with the Senate version, which targets $298 million for universities, 6240 million for community colleges, $150 million for clean water, and $60 million for state parks.

The lawmakers' action comes just a year after the House of Representatives shot down a plan to bring $398 million of school GO bands before voters.

In July 1992, the state Senate passed legislation authorizing a total of $398 million of new general obligation debt. comprising $271 million for the state's university system and $127 million for community colleges.

But the House of Representatives objected to the bond bill at the time, and insisted that the legislature must first complete a comprehensive study of all state building projects before approving the bonds.

Everett Chalk, assistant director of bond authorization for the state's Local Government Commission which oversees debt issuance in North Carolina, said that the $87.5 million of jall bonds will probably be sold within three months.

These bonds are part of $200 million of general obligation debt for jails narrowly approved by voters in November 1990. The $112.5 million of prison bonds already issued -- the state's last offering of GO debt -- was offered in March 1992. During the 1992 session, lawmakers put off final authorization of the $87.5 million because of disagreement about the types of jails that would be funded with bond proceeds.

The 1994 capital budget, which is funded by the previous fiscal yearend cash surplus, includes $102.5 million of general fund recurring spending and $106.5 million targeted for one-time projects.

This year's capital budget compares with a $118.8 million of capital spending approved last year for fiscal 1993.

Earlier this month, the General Assembly approved a $9.03 billion fiscal 1994 operating budget.

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