Montana House Passes Rules for Infrastructure Bill

Wed March 13, 2019 - West Edition #6
Associated Press

HELENA, Mont. (AP) The Montana House unanimously passed a bill on Feb. 28 to set rules for lawmakers to determine how much money the state can afford to borrow and spend on building construction and maintenance.

Republican Rep. Eric Moore's bill, which includes rules for borrowing based on state revenue and existing debt, passed the House 100-0 and moves to the Senate.

The bill calls for the governor to set a six-year plan for infrastructure investments to help set priorities and requires spending money on needed maintenance before new projects can be funded.

"This bill is all about consistency," Moore said. "It's about doing a little something every two years, not doing $100 or $200 million in bonding one year and then not doing anything for the next decade."

Moore has said having a framework would improve the state's bond rating and reduce the cost of borrowing money for building projects.

Over the past several legislative sessions, lawmakers have been unable to get the two-thirds majority vote needed to authorize borrowing money for major building projects. Lawmakers in 2017 approved $173 million for water, sewer, road and bridge projects.

Moore said his bill was drafted in consultation with lawmakers from both parties and in both houses and the governor's office. It passed unanimously in the House Appropriations Committee last week.

Committee co-chair Rep. Nancy Balance, a Republican, said people view the bill as a responsible way to set fiscal policy.