Helena – In the waning days of the 2017 legislative session, there is still a chance for infrastructure package to pass, but it might not be an easy road. The eventual solution may be complicated but the breakdown is rather simple: Democrat Governor Steve Bullock wants to spend more; Republicans in control of the House want to spend less.
A similar scenario occurred in 2015 when Mr. Bullock rejected several Republican proposals because they did not spend enough and did not fund particular pet projects. The final result was no infrastructure package passed in 2015.
This year House Republicans proposed $33 Million in bonding for infrastructure projects, a proposal rejected by Democrats in the legislature and Mr. Bullock.
Senate Minority Leader Jon Sesso, R-Butte, and House Minority Leader Jenny Eck, D-Helena, said the Democrats would not support House Bill 645 because it does not include projects they want funded. Those projects include renovating Romney Hall at Montana State University-Bozeman, a new veterans’ home in Butte, and building projects at MSU-Billings and Great Falls College of Technology.
A compromise on the House appropriations committee more than doubled the original proposal to $78 million in bonds. That proposal was unable to garner the 67 votes needed to pass the House.
Meanwhile, Mr. Bullock is still unwilling to accept the Republican proposal that does have the support to pass the House. However, Bullock’s spokeswoman, Ronja Abel, blamed Republicans, telling Lee Enterprises that, “these political games put infrastructure at the risk of failure — at the expense of Montanans who deserve better.”
Speaker of the House Austin Knudsen, R-Culbertson, remains optimistic a solution can be found if Mr. Bullock is willing to compromise.
By: Big Sky Headlines staff