2017 Legislative Session
Funding of Montana’s critical infrastructure took center stage during the 2015 Legislative Session and is positioned to be a key issue throughout the 2017 Session. For the first time in many years, the Montana legislature is confronted with projected biennial revenue sufficient to meet basic expenditures, but lacks the surplus revenue often dedicated to investments in infrastructure, health care, and social programs. Critical infrastructure is characterized as necessary for public health and human safety and typically involves water, wastewater, solid waste, road & bridge projects.
Governor Bullock’s proposed Fiscal Year 2019 budget provides for significant investment in State infrastructure through House Bill 14 (HB14). HB14 proposes to fund $22M of critical infrastructure, $139M of new building and maintenance projects, and $110M for schools, reclamation, and other programs. The projects are funded through a combination of cash and bonding. HB14 provides for a significant investment in infrastructure. However based on previous legislative sessions, HB14 may be met with opposition by legislators due to the significant bonding component and prevalence of new building projects. With a wide array of opinions on Montana’s infrastructure needs and how to fund them, the 2017 session will be one to keep an eye on.
Montanan’s Taking Action
The Montana Infrastructure Coalition (MIC) is a non-partisan forum of local governments, non-profit organizations, and private businesses created following the inability of the 2015 legislature to pass an infrastructure bill. A key mission of the MIC is to develop sustainable funding solutions for critical infrastructure needs. In response to the shortfall in the HSSRA, the MIC has proposed a 10₵/gallon increase in the state gas tax. There is ongoing discussion of splitting the increase in revenue between the Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) and local governments. The MIC is one of many organizations working to educate legislators on the need for infrastructure investment and offer sustainable, long-term funding solutions. To help understand infrastructure needs, the MIC has produced two infrastructure overview documents that can be accessed here. The ASCE also produced a Montana Infrastructure Report Card that can be found here.
There a many ways to advocate your concerns during this legislative year. Direct contact with your local legislators is very impactful. This may take place through attending town hall meetings and listening sessions, or through email or phone conversations. Legislators are very respectful of constituent input and typically respond to emails and phone messages. If you are unsure of your legislator, click HERE, to identify your state representatives and senators. For instruction on how to contact your legislator, click HERE. Testifying in person at legislative committee hearings is another powerful means of articulating your concerns to an attentive audience. Testimony should be brief, factual, and, if possible, supported by hard copy material. For a calendar of legislative committee hearings, click HERE.