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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Republicans Face Off With Governor Over Infrastructure Spending

Office of the governor, budget and program planning.
William Marcus

Despite a warning from the Governor to keep his Build Montana infrastructure bill intact, lawmakers are moving to break House Bill 5 into at least 5 bills. The move sets up a face-off with the Bullock Administration.

Sen. Mike Cuffe (R) - Eureka
Credit Montana Legislature
Rep. Mike Cuffe (R) HD2

Representative Mike Cuffe chairs the Long-Range Planning Appropriations Subcommittee. So when asked why the Republican majority in the Legislature is taking this action? Cuffe responds by saying there used to be a Bubba burger on the menu of the cafe in Eureka.

"And he had a chunk of meat and some cheese and some more cheese and onions and peppers, bacon, ham, sausage, shrimp. Whatever was in the fridge; chicken; he threw it on and he ended up with this great big sandwich."

Cuffe says the decision to move forward to break House Bill 5 into pieces came after the Republican majority listened to Governor Steve Bullock’s State of the State address Wednesday night. A significant part of the Democrat’s speech was to promote Build Montana and he issued this warning.

"We are one state. Any infrastructure plan that is paid for by all Montanans but only benefits some will be met with a veto. And I won’t consider any plan that prioritizes pet projects of one legislator at the expense of the rest of you," Bullock promised.

So going back to the Bubba Burger, Cuffe says it was hard to bite into, was a gut-bomb, and gave you a belly-ache.

"That’s kinda how HB 5 is. The governor has taken everything high wide and handsome out of Montana put a slice on each side and made a package, shoved it on, shoved it in our mouth and say, ‘ok, chew and swallow or I’ll veto. Not a lot of collaboration. Not a lot of negotiation."

Cuffe says it makes sense to break infrastructure down into manageable pieces. He expects most of the pieces will stay in place. The exception are most of the projects to be paid for with bonds. Those will be dropped, for now.

"OK so the U-system had it's projects for Romney Hall, ... Clapp, the MSUB library. Those things, yep they’re dropped off. Sorry about that. But right now we feel backed up against the wall.

"Nothing is dead until its dead," says Cuffe. "But OK so the U-system had it’s projects for Romney Hall. Klepp I think it is, Clapp. The MSUB library. Those things, yep they’re dropped off. Sorry about that. But right now we feel backed up against the wall. Maybe there will be room for collaboration, for discussion but as of right now we have to move things and this seems how to do it."

Cuffe says the Long-Range Planning subcommittee still plans to take executive action on House Bill 5 next Thursday. He anticipates the committee will largely vote to advance the bill in the form proposed by the governor.

He expects the bill will be broken into House Bills 6, 7, 8, 11 and 15 in the full House Appropriations Committee.

A spokesman for the governor says for now, the Bullock Administration is standing by the comments made during the State of the State Address.

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