Legislative Update: Wednesday, April 26

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Eric Moore

Infrastructure-funding bill tweaked

By Cole Grant

The House Appropriations Committee voted Wednesday to revive and tighten up a bill that would borrow money to pay for some infrastructure projects, like improvements to parks and public schools.

Senate Bill 367, carried by Sen. Eric Moore, R-Miles City, originally authorized for bonding up to $98 million, but that was whittled down to around $80 million.

Among other things, the new amendments cut a little less than half of the funding for the quality-schools grant program. That would fund things like building repairs and fire system upgrades for public schools throughout the state.

Rep. Mike Cuffe, R-Eureka, whose infrastructure bill failed earlier this month, supported the bill.

“I think the amendments have been well thought out, well put together, and cover some things I had been involved in trying to make happen … so I think it’s time to move it forward,” he said.

Since this is a bonding bill, the House will need a two-thirds vote to pass it. Infrastructure has proven to be a sticking point as the Legislature draws to a close.

Cole Grant is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association and the Greater Montana Foundation.

Budget adjustments agreed to

By Freddy Monares

A panel of lawmakers advanced a bill Wednesday that would make adjustments to the statewide budget, and other bills that the Legislature has already passed.

A free conference committee, comprised of members from the Senate and House, passed  Senate Bill 95, and amended it several times to include adjustments to multiple bills. One of those changes is establishing a set tax of $825 instead of a percentage tax on newer vehicles that cost more than $150,000.

Sen. Eric Moore, R-Miles City, supported the amendment Wednesday at the hearing, recorded by the Legislature.

“We had a percentage tax on these high-priced vehicles concept prior to negotiations with the industry,” he said. “They felt this more palatable.”

Rep. Randy Brodehl, R-Kalispell, also supports the amendment.

“We were all probably equally unhappy with it,” he said. “That makes it a pretty good amendment.”

The bill will go to both the House and Senate for a final vote before it can go to Gov. Steve Bullock.

Freddy Monares is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association and the Greater Montana Foundation.

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