Montana Governor Steve Bullock signed a series of bills Friday that allow for spending nearly $400 million on buildings, bridges and water systems across the state—an effort aimed at creating jobs, boosting the state's economy, and clearing up a backlog of needed work.
The bills include money to repair or replace 14 bridges and 51 water, wastewater and sewer projects. Overall, the 2019 Legislature passed $2.7 billion in infrastructure projects, including highway projects.
One of the measures was the result of a bipartisan effort to set guidelines to determine how much money the state can afford to borrow and spend on building construction and maintenance, based on state revenues and existing debt.
Those guidelines helped clear the way for legislation to sell about $80 million in bonds for infrastructure projects including $25 million for long-sought renovations to Romney Hall at Montana State University. It also funds a dental hygiene lab at Great Falls College and pays for backlogged maintenance at state buildings, including $2 million for the state Capitol complex.
After the 2019 Legislature adjourned, both Democrats and Republicans touted the economic benefit of the bonding bill and other infrastructure measures.
Bullock, a Democrat, also signed a bill Friday to increase the state lodging tax by 1 percentage point to raise $34 million for a new Montana Historical Society museum along with grant money for other museums across the state. The increase takes effect on January 1, 2020.
"These long-term investments in every corner of Montana will have a lasting impact that allow urban and rural communities to sustain strong economic growth," Bullock said in a statement.
Main image: In this Jan. 23, 2019, file photo, snowfall surrounds Romney Hall on the campus of Montana State University in Bozeman, Mont. Gov. Steve Bullock signed a series of bills Friday, May 10, 2019, to authorize spending of nearly $400 million on infrastructure projects in the state, including $25 million to renovate Romney Hall and add more classrooms. (Rachel Leathe/Bozeman Daily Chronicle via AP, File)