MT Speaker of the House Says Montana Democrats Siding With Urban Montana, Hurting Rural
Montana Speaker of the House Austin Knudsen is accusing Montana Governor Steve Bullock and Democrats in the legislature of favoring urban infrastructure over rural infrastructure and encouraging an urban/rural political rift in Montana. Knudsen says the rift can be seen in the Governor’s all or nothing support of an $80 million dollar bonding bill with major infrastructure projects in big cities like MSU’s Romney Hall in Bozeman, a veteran’s home in Butte, and a history museum in Helena.
"Those were the three projects that became the hill that democrats wanted to die on, and, frankly, they wouldn't support our $33 million [version of the] bill, because it wasn't big enough and didn't fund those projects," Knudsen said. "When it became clear that we weren't going to support a bonding bill that included those projects, they killed another bill that was funding for regional water systems located primarily in rural Montana. "
The water system bill Knudsen refers to is House Bill 8, an infrastructure bill that usually passes. Knudsen says Democrats killed the bill out of spite, after the governor’s favored bill was shot down.
"H.B. 8 is great policy that the state of Montana has passed and funded every year since that bill was created in 1991, but it is a matter of different priorities; you have an extremely liberal urban faction of the Democrat party controlling the democrat caucus and, unfortunately, they have an ally in the governor's office, who lines up with their beliefs," Knudsen said. "So, it was a two-fronted attack there, and they were successful; they killed H.B. 8 when they didn't get their bonding bill project."
The blame game goes both ways of course, with Democrats accusing Republicans of voting down a crucial infrastructure bill. The back and forth will certainly continue, echoing into the next legislative session.