- Associated Press - Thursday, January 29, 2015

HELENA, Mont. (AP) - House Republicans said Thursday that they are rejecting most of the bonding proposed in Gov. Steve Bullock’s nearly $400 million infrastructure bill.

Rep. Nancy Ballance of Hamilton called Bullock’s Build Montana proposal irresponsible. Balance said at a news conference at the Capitol that the conservative Legislature refusing in recent sessions to bond at a high level has led to Montana’s financial strength.

About two thirds of Bullock’s $391 million proposal uses bonding to pay for projects, including sewer systems and school facilities maintenance throughout the state.

Rep. Mike Cuffee of Eureka said they are dividing House Bill 5 into seven separate bills. Cuffee didn’t say which of Bullock’s 280 proposed projects would be eliminated, but he said one measure would address funding for projects in parts of eastern Montana affected by the oil boom.

“These funding bills will receive individual, fair hearings, giving Montana’s most critical infrastructure projects the best chance at being funded,” said Cuffee, the chairman of a budget subcommittee that has been holding hearings on Bullock’s bill.

The Republican plan comes a day after Bullock told lawmakers in his State of the State address that he would veto any infrastructure plan paid for by all Montanans and only benefiting some.

“As Governor Bullock said last night, we are one state, and we have urgent infrastructure needs across Montana,” Bullock spokesman Dave Parker said in an email. “And any infrastructure plan that is paid for by all Montanans, but only prioritizes pet projects of certain legislators, will be met with a veto. The Republican leadership in the Legislature shouldn’t be playing political games, they should be helping Governor Bullock address the infrastructure needs of our state.”

State budget director Dan Villa testified previously that bonds could be a cheaper form of funding for these projects because cash kept in investments would generate more money than the state would have to pay in bond interest.


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