Senate approves ‘cash bill’ to fund $157M in capital projects

The bill is one of several this legislative session that deals with the state’s infrastructure, which is an issue both parties named as a priority when the session started in January.

By Freddy Monares/UM Legislative News Service

HELENA – The Senate gave final approval Thursday to a bill that would fund capital projects, like university system renovations and a veterans’ home in Butte, with money from state special revenue funds, grants and donations.  

House Bill 5, known as the “cash bill,” — because it uses cash instead of borrowing money through bonding —  appropriates roughly $157 million to state projects. The money is divvied up to the Montana University System, Fish, Wildlife and Parks and other state entities for maintenance and construction of new buildings.

The bill passed out of out of the House on a 99-1 vote in March, and passed the Senate Thursday 44-6. It will now go to Gov. Steve Bullock for his signature or veto.

All money appropriated to the university system is from the authority-only section, or grants and donations the Legislature needs to approve for spending. The allocation for the university system includes renovations at Barnard Hall on the Bozeman campus of Montana State University and a clinical psychology addition for the University of Montana in Missoula. The bill appropriates $57.35 million total for the university system.

The bill is one of several this legislative session that deals with the state’s infrastructure, which is an issue both parties named as a priority when the session started in January. The Legislature has about two weeks left in the 90-day session.

Rep. Jim Keane, D-Butte, is carrying the bill and said the bill draws funds from the coal tax trust fund.

“But it isn’t all cash in this bill, there’s about $67 million of just authority for different projects around the state,” Keane said during debate on the bill in March.

The bill was later amended to allow about $76.8 million of authority-only money. The additional $9.8 million was added when the Senate amended the bill to include the Southwestern Montana Veterans’ Home.

Republican Rep. Mike Cuffe supported the bill during debate in the House.

“We did hear many many projects presented, and they were great presentations — heartfelt,” Cuffe 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.