From the beginning of the 2017 session, House Republicans committed to supporting essential infrastructure which would not place an undue burden on Montana taxpayers.
The Legislature is currently moving more than $1.1 Billion worth of infrastructure projects directly to Montana communities. You read that right – Billion. This is an important piece of the puzzle that some in Helena don’t want the public to hear about. The Helena crowd has an agenda based on their own self-interest, not the well-being of families across the state. They would rather ignore the billion dollars in essential projects we are prepared to pay for in cash in order to strengthen their argument for racking up debt to pay for new buildings and pet projects.
You deserve to know the truth when it comes to essential infrastructure. Here’s the breakdown of $1.1 Billion: $213 Million will go directly to local communities through cash accounts like the Treasure State Endowment Program (TSEP), renewable resource grants and similar programs (in HB5-8 & 11). In addition, the major budget bill (HB2) currently contains $900 million for road and highway infrastructure funding through the Department of Transportation. Finally, the bonding bill introduced this week by Representative Mike Cuffe contains an additional $33 Million for basic infrastructure projects.
The bonding bill adds 149 additional infrastructure projects across the state, one-third of which are in generally urban areas and two-thirds in more rural areas.
As you have likely read in the papers over the last several months, there are many needs in our state – especially in areas of healthcare, education and infrastructure. You’ve likely also read that declining revenues have created a budget crunch that is reverberating through every state agency and every community. Fortunately, Montanans sent a strong, conservative majority to the House of Representatives to hold the purse strings and manage the state budget through this budget crunch. The majority of the Republican caucus has agreed that incurring the least amount of debt for Montana is the fiscally responsible thing to do.
This is not a foreign concept. Families across Montana decide where to spend money based on what their priorities are and how much is coming into the household. We look at the federal government, which has racked up $20 Trillion in debt, and know that is not the way that Montana’s government should function.
There are many members of the Republican caucus who simply do not want to add debt to our state through bonding. That being said, every Representative recognizes that there is a real need to complete additional projects. Through weeks of conversations, the caucus agreed that starting at the relatively low level of $33 million as the starting point.
Though the details aren’t yet set in stone, we will continue to work hard to follow through on the commitments we’ve made to our communities back home. Until then, we believe that Montanans should have all the facts about infrastructure. We can meet our essential infrastructure needs without incurring debt—and that’s exactly what we intend to do.
By: Speaker of the House Austin Knudsen, R-Culbertson; Speaker Pro Tem Greg Hertz, R-Polson; and House Majority Leader Ron Ehli, R-Hamilton