Legislature invested in Montana’s future
I’ve been hearing some questions from Montanans who are grateful for the over $1 billion in one-time and ongoing tax relief passed by legislative Republicans, but also say they want to see the state make smart investments for the long term.
The conservative budgeting from the legislature and resulting historic budget surplus allowed Republicans to do both tax relief and long-term planning. Here are some of the major investments we made that will pay dividends for years to come.
“Debt free in 2023.” The Legislature paid off the state’s general obligation debt. House Bill 251 from Rep. Llew Jones saves Montanans from paying interest on state debt going into the future, to the tune of about $25 million per year in tax savings.
Fire suppression. As wildfire season kicks into high gear, the importance of House Bills 424 and 883, also from Rep. Jones, are clear. Those two bills increased funding for Montana’s Fire Suppression Fund, provided funding for disaster mitigation projects, upgraded Montana’s aerial firefighting force to reduce our dependence on the federal government for initial attack, and provided funding for wildfire mitigation forest projects.
Infrastructure. House Bills 6, 267, 355, and 817 from Representatives Mike Hopkins, Courtenay Sprunger, and John Fitzpatrick, as well as Senate Bill 536 from Sen. Greg Hertz, allocated hundreds of millions for a wide variety of infrastructure projects. When leveraged with matching federal dollars, we’re talking about well over $1 billion collectively from these bills. Safer roads and bridges, upgrades to water, sewer, and irrigation projects, including repairs at the St. Mary’s Canal in North-Central Montana, and improvements to county roads are on the way. Significant repairs and improvements at the state prison in Deer Lodge, as well as maintenance for school and local drinking water systems and other infrastructure are also included in this package.
Housing. Rep. Paul Green passed House Bill 819 that invests millions into workforce housing loans and infrastructure to assist people in building and buying housing that takes up no more than 30% of their monthly income.
Mental health. The Legislature made a generational investment into revamping Montana’s mental health care system, with $300 million allocated via Rep. Bob Keenan’s House Bill 872.
Police and teachers. House Bill 569 from Rep. Terry Moore, and House Bill 332 from Rep. David Bedey, respectively shore up Montana’s law enforcement pension funds and create a statewide health insurance trust for schools.
These 12 bills add up to billions in state and federal funding to help address several of Montana’s most pressing needs. They provide stability and certainty moving forward, prepare Montana for disasters and long-term success, and will save taxpayers millions in future tax obligations.
Senator Steve Fitzpatrick (R)
Senate Majority Leader