MTPR

Gov. Bullock: Republican Bill Could Break Legislative ‘Log Jam' On Infrastructure

Mar 13, 2019

UPDATE: House Appropriations voted 17 to five to pass the bill out of committee following its first hearing. 

Gov. Steve Bullock says a Republican-sponsored infrastructure bill could break through what he calls a “log jam” that’s prevented other major public works proposals from passing in the state Legislature.

The so-called State and Local Infrastructure Act got its first hearing in House Appropriations, Wednesday.

The bill offers about half of the bonding money requested by Gov. Steve Bullock, but its Republican sponsor says between it, and other legislation, many of the same projects are funded.

Bullock says the proposal, along with his request, and another Republican-sponsored bill to add additional framework to guide infrastructure spending, should all be looked at together.

“The recognition that we have an obligation to do some of the work on these buildings, both for the university system and other, I think is very, very encouraging. So I’m glad that the Republicans are coming up with a bill that could hopefully address and break that log jam.”

The Legislature’s two-thirds vote threshold to approve state debt has hamstrung previous efforts to pass a large bonding infrastructure package over the last decade.

The Republican bill does not fund the governor’s request for more than $32 million for a new Montana Heritage Center museum. It also provides less state funding for the renovation of Romney Hall at Montana State University in Bozeman.

Both Bullock’s proposal and the Republican plan have the support from the Montana Infrastructure Coalition, a broad group of construction contractors and local governments.

Darryl James, the coalition’s executive director, says the so-called State and Local Infrastructure Act puts $20 million toward a much larger local critical infrastructure deficit in the state.

“We estimate the existing backlog on infrastructure needs at over $2 billion, in needs for basic road, bridge, water and sewer projects across the state.”

[Update] House Appropriations voted 17 to five to pass the bill out of committee following its first hearing.