Bill would give UM $29 million to build Missoula College, likely on golf course
The Montana Legislature brought Missoula College one step closer to a new home Friday afternoon.
House Bill 14, known as the Jobs and Opportunities by Building Schools bill, passed the House Appropriations Committee on a 13-8 vote. All eight Democrats on the committee voted yes, along with five Republicans, said committee Minority vice chair Rep. Galen Hollenbaugh, D-Helena.
The bill would provide $29 million dollars toward building Missoula College — part of a $100 million package of college and university construction projects across the state.
Hollenbaugh said the committee made two amendments to the bill.
One amendment, introduced by Rep. Duane Ankney, R-Colstrip, establishes an option to pay for the projects with cash, instead of bonding, if the state has the money at the end of the fiscal year.
“I did that to try to keep this bill alive,” Ankney said. “There’s a big movement to try to cash what buildings we can and not to bond anything.”
While that movement is mostly Republican-led, Ankney said he’s not opposed to bonding.
“I don’t have any heartburn with it,” he added. “I’ve always been a supporter of the bonding bill.”
Hollenbaugh said he supported Ankney’s amendment, although he’s not sure paying cash will be an option.
“I don’t know how much money we’re going to spend in this session,” he said. “But I supported it because if we do end up being in a good cash position, maybe it’ll be okay to do that.”
Because bonding is still a possibility, HB14 requires 67 votes, in place of the usual 50, to pass the 100-member House. Every bill that requires the state to take on debt needs a two-thirds majority to pass.
Zach Brown, president of the Associated Students of the University of Montana, said he’s happy the bill is moving forward.
“It’s all cash as far as we’re concerned,” Brown said. “No matter how the Legislature wants to pay for the buildings, we just want the funding for a new Missoula College by the end of the session.”
The other amendment to HB14 removes funding for a new Montana Historical Society building in Helena. Hollenbaugh said the $23 million dollars the bill would have provided for that project will be tacked on to House Bill 5, instead.
Hollenbaugh said he expects the House to vote on HB14 early this week; if it passes, it will then be transferred to the Senate.
The JOBS bill is still feeding controversy in Missoula. If the Legislature passes the bill and provides the funding to build a new Missoula College, construction will commence on the UM golf course, as planned.