The proposal to renovate Romney Hall on the Montana State University campus cleared the House with $9 million less in funding Friday, but still included in an $80 million bonding bill.
Legislators on the House floor amended House Bill 652 earlier this week to trim the money allocated for the project from $25 million to $16 million. That $9 million stays in the bill and will be split between K-12 facilities projects and local water and wastewater work.
The bill cleared an initial vote in the House earlier this week 68-32 and passed 68-30 Friday. Because it puts the state in debt, it requires a two-thirds majority in both the House and Senate to pass.
Rep. Mike Hopkins, who is carrying the bonding bill, said it funds both so-called horizontal projects like local water and sewer repairs and new systems, as well as vertical projects like Romney Hall. This is the GOP version of a bonding bill brought forward after Gov. Steve Bullock's proposal was voted down earlier in the session.
Hopkins' bill does not include money to build a new state history museum in Helena, a proposal that's long held up bonding bills in the past. That project is now in a separate bill that would build the museum with a 1 percent increase on the state bed tax. It cleared the Senate on Friday.
Montana hasn't seen a comprehensive bonding bill since 2011, as legislation has failed in the Legislature over disagreements over how much debt the state should take on. In 2013, Bullock vetoed a bill that he said spent too much of the state's cash reserves.
This session a proposal from Rep. Eric Moore, a Republican from Miles City, aims to ease concerns over bonding by setting parameters on how much debt the state could take on, capping debt payments and setting aside cash for projects each year.
You have free articles remaining.
That bill is called the IDEA Act, for Infrastructure Development and Economic Accountability Act, and cleared the House on a 99-0 vote. It's House Bill 553.
Still, not all Republicans are on board with bonding.
Rep. Carl Glimm, a conservative Republican from Kila, said he wouldn't support Hopkins' bill because it has the state take on debt to pay for projects.
Glimm said the state would pay about $14 million in interest on $80 million in bonding, and said that money would be enough to cover a new dental clinic in Great Falls, sewer repairs at Montana State Hospital in Warm Springs and the state's share of a new armory in Butte, all projects paid for with bonding in the bill.
"That interest that we're going to pay, which we're never going to get back, we're never going to see, would do three of those projects," Glimm said.
Instead, Glimm would rather see the state use cash for projects.