Polson legislator says highway construction needs emergency funding

By Freddy Monares/UM Legislative News Service

HELENA – Lawmakers in Helena are considering a bill that would pull money from a special revenue fund to pay for highway construction projects.

Speaker Pro Tempore Greg Hertz of Polson is sponsoring House Bill 203 and says it’s an emergency measure.

Greg Hertz

“We just can’t be holding these projects, and these jobs, hostage while we want to debate this situation about the gas tax increase,” Hertz said Wednesday.

Gov. Steve Bullock’s budget pays for highway projects by increasing the  gas tax.

Democratic Rep. Kelly McCarthy of Billings says the highway department is required to keep a certain amount of working capital in the highway revenue account.

“If we funded all these projects, it would probably spend about 200 days a year in a negative balance, and then you have to borrow money and pay interest and things to that nature,” McCarthy said.

A House budget committee will hear the bill Thursday.

Freddy Monares is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association and the Greater Montana Foundation.