There has been a lot of talk about infrastructure since the last Montana legislative session.
Cities, counties and school districts across the state have legitimate needs in maintaining, repairing and upgrading infrastructure in their jurisdictions. Some help from the state would be welcomed.
Unfortunately, the Montana Legislature has had an obstacle in its efforts to provide that help. That obstacle is Gov. Steve Bullock. In the 2013 session the legislature passed a bill that would have helped with infrastructure projects in Montana and primarily Eastern Montana’s acute needs. It passed with an overwhelming bipartisan majority. The governor vetoed that bill.
We passed another infrastructure bill during the 2015 session, Senate Bill 354, that would have created a program within the state’s coal severance tax to fund infrastructure projects. That bill was also vetoed.
As the 2015 session came to a close, SB416 came through the House. It had pork barrel projects that the governor insisted on including. About $40 million was designated to build a museum in Helena and to renovate a gymnasium at Montana State University. Many Republican representatives did not agree that these projects were immediate needs so offered an amendment to put the funding of around 50 statewide school maintenance projects and around 75 statewide water and sewer projects as the bill’s priority.
The governor and his allies refused to accept the amendment and ignored the needs of the state. SB 416 failed to pass because of a governor that is not interested in working with the Legislature. Blaming Republicans for the failure of SB 416 is dishonest, and making infrastructure funding a campaign issue now is disingenuous.
Amazingly, the governor is now proposing a plan that is almost identical to Senate Bill 354 as the cornerstone of his infrastructure plans.
Bullock has failed in two legislative sessions on infrastructure bills for this state. It is time that Montana elects a new governor.
House Majority Leader Keith Regier
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