Representative's debate funding for university projects


MISSOULA, Mont. - The Montana House is debating a jobs bill that would pay for construction projects at state universities.

House Bill 14 includes a controversial proposal which would develop the Missoula College on the University Golf Course, but it ran into a snag Tuesday afternoon when the debate turned to how to pay for the projects.

There are two options on the table: one is to issue bonds, or approve state debt, and the other is to pay for the construction projects with taxpayer money.

House Bill 14 made it to the Montana House, but Tuesday afternoon it was sent back to the House Appropriations Committee due to republican concern over using bonds to finance the projects.

NBC Montana spoke to Representative Champ Edmunds (R-Missoula) who tells us he simply didn't want to approve state debt.

"Granted it's for projects that are going to improve our state university system but it's still debt that our kids and grandkids are going to have to pay," said Edmunds. "So now there's still a lot of talk at least among the republican caucus about finding a way to pay cash for these projects rather than putting the state into debt."

Edmunds tells us he wants the university projects to be amended into a cash bill, otherwise known as House Bill 5, which means money for the projects would come out of the state's general fund.

NBC Montana spoke with Peggy Kuhr, interim director of communications at the University of Montana, and she tells us university officials are watching both bills closely.

"We remain confident at this point that by the time the legislature adjourns that we will have funding for the university system projects," said Kuhr. "That would include the Missoula College."

Edmunds tells us there's a chance even if these university projects make it to the Senate they could still get sent back to the House.

NBC Montana will continue to follow this story and bring you the details as we learn more.