The sponsor of a bonding bill to pay for building projects across Montana says doing nothing is not an option. The House Appropriations Committee is considering Senate Bill 367.
Today’s hearing came after the House Appropriations Committee again yesterday rejected House Bill 645, the chamber’s own bonding proposal.
SB 367 seeks to issue nearly $100 million in general obligation bonds, or about $20 million more than was in the failed House proposal. SB 367 is seen as a companion to other infrastructure bills working their way through the legislative process. By issuing bonds, additional money would be available to help more schools fix their failing electrical, water, and sewer systems and fix leaking roofs.
Bonds would also be issued for the Southwest Montana Veterans Home and 3 Montana university system projects.
Senator Eric Moore, R-Miles City, says this bill is not perfect. But he thinks it contains the right mixture of projects to help rural schools and state owned buildings.
“For those of you who don’t support this concept of financing state obligations in terms of state owned water, sewer and state owned buildings, let’s start thinking about other options. I mean if it fails this time it will be 5 or 6 sessions in a row,” Moore said.
He says the reality is there’s a need to maintain and sometimes build new buildings and help rural communities with their public works projects.
Moore says if bonding isn’t the answer, he challenges his colleagues to come up with another funding solution.
“Just ‘no’ isn’t always a solution,” he says. “Do we want to govern or defend our voting records? At some point in time we have to talk about solutions.”
Because SB 367 would indebt the state, it needs a 2/3 vote from each chamber. The bill passed that threshold in the Senate, but HB 645, a bonding bill. failed to gain the 67-vote threshold in the House.
The House Appropriations Committee did not immediately act on the bill although action could come as early as Monday.