Legislative Update

By: 
Wylie Galt

Where our caucus stands
on infrastructure funding

At the 2017 Legislature, the primary focus is on the budget. It has to be because of the economic realities we are facing. But I want to use this column to talk specifically about infrastructure funding and update you on where our caucus stands.
You may have heard in the media that the Governor is insisting on the legislature passing his infrastructure bill early in the session, but we’re not going to let him pressure us into being irresponsible with taxpayer money.
Infrastructure traditionally means things like water and sewer systems, and some bridges and roads. Montana’s infrastructure has been impacted pretty severely in recent years, at least in part by the oil boom. People from both sides of the aisle believe we need to invest in maintaining those assets, but with limited funding available we must prioritize funds to those who need it the most.
Unfortunately for the last two sessions, Montanans have been left without a major infrastructure bill at the end of the session. This is due in large part to the massive all-in-one spending bills that Governor Bullock has insisted upon – and insists upon again this session.
That’s not to say that projects haven’t been funded. In fact, in the 2015 Legislature our Appropriations team ensured that thousands of infrastructure projects were funded and local community projects could be completed.
Projects that the Governor insists upon include over $20 million for a museum in Helena and new buildings on college campuses. While some these of projects have their merits that many on the other side will argue, it is unconscionable to me that these would receive the same priority as communities with water and sewer systems that are in extreme need of repair.

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