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$80 million infrastructure bill passes key vote in Montana House

Posted at 8:56 PM, Mar 27, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-27 23:19:13-04

HELENA – A major infrastructure bill in the Montana Legislature is one vote away from making its way out of the House of Representatives.

Lawmakers voted 68-32 Wednesday afternoon on House Bill 652 in its second reading, but not before the bill was amended.

HB652 includes nearly $80 million in funding for state and local infrastructure projects.

Those projects range from the renovation Montana State University’s Romney Hall to dozens of local wastewater, bridge and reclamation projects.

Changes approved on the floor today include reducing the bonding for Romney Hall by $9 million and reallocating that to local school projects, Virginia and Nevada city and to the repair of a regional jail in Glendive.

Those changes leave $25 million in bonding available for Romney Hall.

“Now we’ll have more money going to K-12 school projects across the state of Montana and we’ll have more money going to wastewater projects for individual areas throughout Montana that are affected by natural resource development,” said bill sponsor Rep. Mike Hopkins, R-Missoula.

The nearly $80 million in bonds authorized by HB652 would also finance projects that include:

  • A new armory in Butte. Bonding would cover $5 million of the $22 million project; federal funds would pay for the remainder.
  • Sewer replacement at the Montana State Hospital in Warm Springs, for $4.5 million.
  • A new dental clinic and laboratory for the dental hygiene program at MSU-Great Falls, at $4.25 million.
  • Twenty-five water, wastewater and sewer projects in local communities for a total of $9.6 million. The projects would normally be financed by the Treasure State Endowment program.
  • Forty grants that for local irrigation and water projects, totaling $5 million.
  • Another $4.25 million for seven local bridge projects and five reclamation projects.
  • A new grant program for local governments impacted by natural-resource development, such as oil and gas, totaling $7 million.
  • Another $7 million to finance grants for local school construction and maintenance. The money is the state share for an existing program that is temporarily short of funds.

Lawmakers in the House will vote on the bill one more time later this week.

The next vote needs to pass by a two-thirds majority for the bill to make it out the House and over to the Montana Senate.

Story by John Riley, MTN News