Ricci recounts tough legislative session to Rotarians

By: 
DAVID KEYES
Outlook publisher

State Rep. Vince Ricci has never been so glad to get back to Laurel.
The second-term Republican summed up legislative adventure to Laurel Rotarians Tuesday by saying: “Everybody shared in the pain” of not having enough revenue.
Rep. Ricci learned more about the politics of state government in the past session than his first but said he was frustrated by some of the mechanics of government.
On the top of his list was a huge bonding bill that ultimately failed, the Laurel intake funding bull that failed and the challenge of a $10.1 billion budget.
“The best thing that happened was we started out in the hole and made it all work without raising taxes,” he said.
Laurel’s intake financial woes were the center of attention for most of the session.
“When I tell people I am from Laurel, the first thing they mention is the intake,” he said.
Laurel’s water intake system from the Yellowstone River was seriously compromised by a flood as well as the water shifting away from the city’s old intake, next to the city water plant.
The flood was considered an emergency by FEMA and the government agency paid 75 percent of the costs to build a new intake facility. During the past two sessions, the state hasn’t committed to paying the difference and Laurel is unable to pay for construction by itself.
The standalone bill to pay the 25 percent – roughly $1.7 million – came out of its first committee with a 22-0 vote and actually survived a House vote with a 98-2 vote.
It was at that point Rep. Ricci said he ran into Gov. Bullock’s budget director who told him “that I know what is going to happen to the bill and it isn’t good.”
The intake bill was tied to a huge bonding bill in the Senate. When it came up for a vote next, Rep. Ricci voted no because it was obvious to him there was no money to pay for the bill.
“There was definitely money for the intake but we couldn’t get at it that way,” he said.
A reporter grabbed Rep. Ricci and asked him why the governor didn’t like Laurel.
“What could I say?”
Rep. Ricci stepped in to give Laurel one more shot at saving the Firefighters Memorial in Laurel.
“I bought us two years to get it done,” he said. A committee is working on getting the memorial completed next to the fire station. Progress on the memorial has been stalled for years.
Rep. Ricci said he needs some decompression time before he decides if he wants to run for a third term.
“I am kind of beaten up and I need some time to just relax,” he said.

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