Candidate Responds To Bullock's Infrastructure Plan For Montana
Any responsible infrastructure plan requires careful thought and coalition building. A few weeks ago, Gov. Bullock floated his latest infrastructure balloon. His plan calls for a $200 million investment of cash and bonds to fund infrastructure needs, identified as water and wastewater systems, public schools and universities, roads and bridges. It would also create a Build Montana Trust, by dedicating 75 percent of the revenue coming in to the Coal Tax Severance Fund for future infrastructure investments.
The Governor’s renewed focus on this issue is appropriate, given the real infrastructure needs facing Montana communities. Also notable is the recent creation of the Montana Infrastructure Coalition, which is composed of various business leaders, counties, and municipalities—including Sidney Mayor Rick Norby and Richland County Commissioner Shane Gorder.
Yet every government spending proposal should always receive careful thought and analysis. Being a fiscal conservative does not mean refusing to spend money where there is a need—like there is with infrastructure in our state and district—but it does mean spending money wisely. The Governor’s plan, while still just a general outline, going forward will need to be scrutinized to determine if it is targeted to critical needs or wishful wants, while also remembering that in politics there will rarely, if ever, be a perfect bill.
One thing that gives me pause about the Governor’s plan and which will need to be explained more in the future, is how it draws funds from the Coal Tax Severance Fund. This trust fund has had a tremendously positive impact for Montana since its creation in 1975—paying for environmental impacts of mining, impacts to local communities and funding economic development programs—and, therefore, any plan that involves possible changes to the Coal Tax Severance Fund will need careful analysis.
As different infrastructure plans are proposed ahead of the next legislative session—whether from Democrats or Republicans—each plan should receive the same careful review and analysis on what impact it will have for communities in House District 35. While there are many uncertainties on where these discussions will go, one thing is certain—as a Representative for House District 35, covering all of Richland County, I will be a leader who listens to the people of our district throughout this process, I will fight for the needs of our district, and I will work to build the coalitions needed to bring an infrastructure package across the finish line.