House moves to tap general fund for university projects


MISSOULA, Mont. - We have an update on a spending bill that state university officials are watching closely.

One of the projects at stake is the Missoula College which is proposed to be developed on the University Golf Course.

Wednesday afternoon legislators voted to amend all state university construction projects into a cash bill -- otherwise known as House Bill 5 -- where monies would come out of the general fund. Before that the projects were on a bonding bill -- House Bill 14.

NBC Montana talked to legislators on Tuesday and Wednesday who told us they didn't want to float bonds to pay for university construction projects. Representative Champ Edmunds (R-Missoula) told us he didn't want to use bonds because he doesn't want to put the state into debt.

"I've been real frank with President Engstrom and other folks in the university system since two years ago that I'm not a big fan of bonding," said Edmunds. "I understand sometimes it has to be done but if there's any way possible that we can find the cash to pay for these projects I would rather not put the state in debt."

"If push comes to shove and we figure out that we don't have enough cash to pay for these projects some of them -- including the Missoula College -- could get put back onto the bonding bill which is House Bill 14," Edmunds explained.

Here are the projects that would be paid for with general funds:

-$20 million classroom renovations at Romney Hall at MSU-Bozeman

-$10 million to add onto a science and industrial tech building at MSU-Billings

-$1 million for roof replacement at Great Falls College

-$4.9 million for a new automotive technology center at MSU-Northern in Havre

-$29 million for a new Missoula College building

-$4 million for Phase 3 of Main Hall renovations at UM Western in Dillon

-$5 million for a natural resource research center addition at Montana Tech in Butte

-$1.6 million for a justice center in Butte

Some private donations will be used to augment each project. Click here for more details on the funding.

Now House Bill 5 has moved onto the state Senate. NBC Montana will continue to follow this story and bring you the details as we learn more.