“Darned Poor Judgment” is the rating I give Gov. Steve Bullock for infrastructure performance during the past four years!
Clear back in 2013 the governor’s bad judgment became obvious. That year the Legislature passed a fix for oil boom infrastructure by a heavy margin, only to have the governor kill it with a veto. In 2015 I chaired the Appropriations Subcommittee for Long Range Planning. That gave me a close up look at the governor’s one-way thought process. Take it or leave it. No changes. No discussion. It’s the exact opposite of how leaders should behave.
In the 2015 Legislature, the governor demanded a bloated infrastructure bill based on $205 million of debt to be repaid by our children and grandchildren. I called it the “Bubba Burger Bill: too big to bite, too big to chew and a sure thing gut bomb belly ache.”
The bulk of his proposal was for a museum in Helena and several university buildings. The governor might call this “infrastructure,” but I wouldn’t. It was a far cry from what is needed to meet the demands on our roads, bridges, and water systems resulting from the oil boom. He wanted us to borrow money for schools, bridges and many projects, even while he bragged about a surplus of $300 to $400 million in the bank.
Besides that, the governor’s office crafted the Bubba Burger Bill so it required a 75 percent “yes” vote. The governor refused to work with anyone, and the Bubba Burger Bill died in committee.
Rep. David Hagstrom and I carried traditional bills with funds dedicated to infrastructure. The governor’s budget director threatened to kill our bills, and he stopped talking to me early in the session. For the first time ever, state employees were ordered to stay away from appropriation committee meetings when we presented these bills. Ordinarily, they would appear with information on how these funds would be distributed.
I discovered that the account for school district projects was already over spent, in part because it was used to repay earlier bonding debt. The governor’s answer was to rack up more debt for the state. He refused to use available cash. Sad story, but in the end nothing happened for school repair and maintenance.
My bills passed. Millions of dollars for true infrastructure went all over the state for water projects, sewage systems, bridges, reclamation projects and more. Meanwhile, the governor refused to discuss cash infrastructure funding for oil patch country with Speaker of the House Austin Knudsen.
SB 416, which I supported, was still heavy to bonds for buildings. It failed. I offered changes, but the budget director said no way.
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. The governor has had one term, two legislative sessions, to show his stuff. He came up with too little too late, thanks to Darned Poor Judgment. Montana deserves a new governor with common sense and good judgment who will work with the legislature for the betterment of Montana. We need a business executive like Greg Gianforte as governor.