Published May 1, 2009 | May 2009 issue
Divvying up Montana's $870 million share of federal economic stimulus money is contentious work, but legislators were drawing closer to agreement in March. The House Appropriations Committee approved a bill allocating $75 million of funding that isn't federally designated for specific purposes such as highway construction, education, human services and energy conservation.
Budget-expanding items in the bill include an extra $23 million for locally chosen city, county and tribal building projects; $15 million for public schools; $13 million for higher education, including funding to freeze tuition for in-state students at public universities and colleges; and $13 million for mental health care, aging and other social service programs. Stating that it wanted to "put money on the ground" to create jobs, the committee rejected Gov. Brian Schweitzer's proposal to use $43 million to shore up the state teacher pension system.
The House was expected to pass the bill, but the Republican-controlled Senate may have other ideas about how to spend the stimulus money.