HELENA – The House gave final approval Friday to amendments on a bill that would appropriate roughly $157 million for capital projects with state special revenue funds, grants and donations.
The Senate passed House Bill 5 last week, but amended it to allow authority money to fund three more projects, including a veterans’ home in Butte. Authority money is grants and donations the Legislature needs to approve for spending.
The bill will now go to Gov. Steve Bullock.
This was one of several bills this session dealing with infrastructure, which has been a goal of both parties to fund. Gov. Steve Bullock has also pressed the Legislature the whole session to get a bill funding construction projects across the state to his desk.
“House Bill 5 was amended in the Senate. I think they became a little concerned that we weren’t moving fast enough on bonding,” said Rep. Jim Keane, D-Butte, who is the sponsor of the bill.
Bonding, which is essentially borrowing, has also been an issue the parties have yet to come to an agreement on. Since day one of the legislative session, Republicans have said that just like a family’s budget, the state needs to live within its means and not borrow any money.
House Bill 5 does not use any general fund money, or borrow any. Rep. Mike Cuffe, R-Eureka, supported the bill.
“There are four columns: state, federal, authority and total,” Cuffe said. “As you go across to the other pages, some had questions there, the things that (Rep. Keane) referred to are covered in authority.”
Rep. Rae Peppers, D-Lame Deer, supported the bill during debate in the House and is a member of the long-range planning committee that heard testimony on all the projects.
“In particularly the veterans, I’ve been here three sessions and every session they have come in and asked for this, and they are more than deserving,” Peppers said.
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.