HELENA – Gov. Steve Bullock gave final approval Friday to a package of bills to invest in Montana’s infrastructure.
The Governor’s Office announced Bullock had signed nine bills that would fund nearly $400 million in buildings, bridge repairs and water and sewer projects.
“These long-term investments in every corner of Montana will have a lasting impact that allows urban and rural communities to sustain strong economic growth,” Bullock said in a statement. “Montanans can be pleased knowing our political system still works and long overdue community development projects are a result of lawmakers coming together over shared values and priorities.”
One of the biggest bills is House Bill 652, sponsored by Rep. Mike Hopkins, a Republican from Missoula. The bill authorizes the state to issue almost $80 million in bonds to fund construction projects across the state. It will pay for part of the $32 million renovation of Romney Hall, on the Montana State University campus in Bozeman. Other major projects include a $22 million armory in Butte, a $4.5 million sewer replacement at the Montana State Hospital in Warm Springs and a $4.25 million dental hygiene lab at Great Falls College.
This is the first time in several legislative sessions that lawmakers have passed and the governor has signed a large state construction bonding bill.
Bullock also signed Senate Bill 338, sponsored by Republican Sen. Terry Gauthier of Helena. The bill would increase the state lodging tax to help fund a new museum for the Montana Historical Society and grants to local museums and historical sites statewide.
SB 338 would raise the lodging tax from 3% to 4%. About 80 percent of the revenue raised would go toward construction of the new Montana Heritage Center. The Historical Society has been planning the project for more than a decade.
“It’s all new to us now,” said MHS director Bruce Whittenberg. “We’ve been working for a long time to get to this point and now the game changes a little bit. It will be an exciting time and hopefully it won’t be too long before you start to see some progress here.”
Whittenberg said the Heritage Center will give the Historical Society more space to exhibit its collections of art and artifacts, and provide better conditions for storing and caring for those items.
Full list of infrastructure-related bills signed by Gov. Steve Bullock Friday:
House Bill 5; sponsored by Rep. Jim Keane, D-Butte; Long-range building appropriations
House Bill 6; sponsored by Rep. Jim Keane, D-Butte; Renewable resource grants
House Bill 7; sponsored by Rep. Jim Keane, D-Butte; Reclamation and development grants
House Bill 8; sponsored by Rep. Jim Keane, D-Butte; Renewable resource bonds and loans
House Bill 10; sponsored by Rep. Ken Holmlund, R-Miles City; Long-range information technology appropriations
House Bill 11; sponsored by Rep. Jim Keane, D-Butte; Treasure State Regional Water Program
House Bill 553; sponsored by Rep. Eric Moore, R-Miles City; Generally revise infrastructure funding laws
House Bill 652; sponsored by Rep. Mike Hopkins, R-Missoula; Revise the long-range building bonding program
Senate Bill 338; sponsored by Sen. Terry Gauthier, R-Helena; Provide for construction of the Montana Heritage Center and create museum grants