The Blaine County Journal News-Opinion - We've Got The County Covered

Protecting Montana's Future

 

April 21, 2021



April is always a fast-paced month at the legislature, and this year is no different. The Senate has been busy voting on a lot of bills that covered a wide variety of topics. I am confident that the bills we passed will improve lives of Montana’s in many ways, however nothing is perfect.

This past week the Senate passed two critical appropriations bills that will help our state move past the pandemic and sustain prosperity for decades to come. As we decided what to do with the federal stimulus money, Republican leaders in Helena, unlike Washington Democrats, made sure the federal funds were dispersed responsibly and targeted to concretely improving the lives of Montanans who need and desire it most.

The Federal Cares Act, which was passed by the federal congress in December, is being implemented in HB 630. Much of the funding contained in this bill would normally be included in House Bill 3 – one of the supplemental appropriations bills for our budget. HB 630 allowed us to fund certain programs without growing government at the state level, but beware the Federal government needs to fund it somehow, probably via increased federal taxation

The funds being deployed through HB 630 are for ONE-TIME use only. But much-needed money went to schools, commerce, infrastructure, emergency rental relief, and unemployment insurance to help those bounce back from the massive economic impact of shutdowns. By passing HB 630 in a bipartisan fashion, the Senate ensured the continuation of Cares Act 2 money going to Montanans that need it most – without growing government in Montana.

The Senate also passed another relief appropriation bill, House Bill 632. In this bill we hope to ensure that the latest round of federal relief funding is dispersed in a targeted, responsible manner that will provide long-lasting, positive impacts.

While we received $2.165 billion in HB 632 funds from the federal government, the Senate had no choice in deciding where some of the money should go – the federal government made the decision and mandated where certain dollars had to be spent. However, there was still a significant portion of funds where the Senate did have discretionary powers and hopefully those in need will benefit.

The money provided by HB 632 allowed us to fund projects that we normally are not able fund while keeping a balanced, fiscally responsible budget. But we made the best use of the extra federal dollars. For example, around $400 million will go to water and sewer projects across the state. We put guardrails on this money, limiting individual projects to $25 million, to ensure money got spread out throughout the state and no town or county would be left behind. I am confident that the St. Mary/Milk River rehabilitation. The SM/MR joint board is very organized.

I could not win the battle for counties in SB 355. There is a dire need for adequate revenue for ALL the rural counties in Montana. We have given up a lot through the years.

This next week will be full of conference committees. These special committees are held jointly between the House and the Senate to finalize a specific amendment to a specific bill. HB 112 and SB 306 are in such committees. These bills will be moved for signature by the Governor.

Without only a couple weeks left in the session, we still have a lot to do on behalf of all Montanans. But as we wrap up this legislative session, Senate Republicans will always put fiscal responsibility and conservative values at the forefront our pursuit to improve the lives of all Montanans.

Even though the end of the session is almost here, I encourage all my constituents to get involved and reach out to make their voices heard. Mike.lang@mtleg.gov or 406-654-7357.

Gratefully,

Senator Mike Lang

Senate District 17, Malta

 
 

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