The Senate on Tuesday punted on debate over $80 million in infrastructure projects, saying it would take up the legislation later.
House Bill 652 includes bonding for major buildings and renovations, as well as funding for local water and wastewater project and school facilities. Wednesday marks Day 81 of the legislative session that can run 90 days.
Senate Majority Leader Fred Thomas, a Republican from Stevensville, said the bonding bill was pushed back because the Senate wasn’t ready to deal with it yet, in part because of remaining questions about how to handle a proposal to renovate Romney Hall at Montana State University.
The $32 million project has been in front of the Legislature five times but never crossed the finish line. This year, however, there's a fall-back plan. Legislators earlier this month amended a long-range building projects bill to include $25 million for the Romney project and pay for it in cash if the bonding bill fails or Romney is stripped from it.
The long-range projects bill, House Bill 5, is scheduled for debate in the House on Wednesday. Another bill that's part of the infrastructure package, House Bill 8, was pushed off the Senate agenda Monday. That bill funds regional water projects and irrigation facilities. It needs the vote of three-quarters of each House to pass. In 2017 that bill was collateral damage in that sessions' bonding debate, when another $80 million bonding infrastructure package failed.
Because it would put the state in debt, the main bonding bill this session needs the support of two-thirds of the Senate. If the bill is amended when the full Senate debates it, the House would also have to vote with a super-majority to suspend its rules to accept it after a Tuesday deadline.
The House has already passed the bonding bill on a 68-30 vote, and it has not yet been amended on the Senate side.