Hearings Begin for House Bill 14

NBC Montana | 1/23/2019 | by Marian Davidson

KALISPELL, Mont. — Montana legislators are looking at House Bill 14. This bill is a statewide infrastructure proposal from Governor Steve Bullock.

HB 14 proposes $160 million for state and local infrastructure projects, funded through bonds. It also includes $44 million for Delivering Local Assistance grants—local governments can apply for help to alleviate infrastructure strains or broadband installation for infrastructure projects.

Montana West Economic Development officials say infrastructure is an important component to economic growth.“Any business that is thinking about moving here, or expanding here, they are dependent upon good infrastructure,” Montana West Economic Development director of marketing and business development Kim Morisaki said. “Their customers need to be able to get to them. They need to have good water and sewer.”

Morisaki said this holds true in Flathead, an area that has seen rapid growth.

“Flathead County is the third fastest-growing small county in the country, I don’t see any reason why that’s going to slow down,” Morisaki said. “With all of those people comes a need for additional infrastructure.”

Morisaki said she has heard concerns about bonds being used to fund projects, but she said bonding might not be as risky as people think.

“If we are building things that are going to be used for decades, and multiple generations of Montanans are going to use these roads or use this infrastructure, then it makes sense to pay for those things over the lifetime of the asset,” she said.

According to a news release from the Governor’s Office, public infrastructure investment through HB 14 could support 1,858 jobs and include $266.2 million in total economic output.