State needs to fulfill its obligation to Laurel

Guest Commentary
Rep. Dennis Lenz
Montana House District 53

The state of Montana has an obligation to provide its 25 percent share for the city of Laurel Water Intake project. The Montana House of Representatives has recently taken the opinion, almost unanimously, that the state executive branch needs to pay its share of the Yellowstone flooding disaster that occurred in 2011. Why has the Governor’s office resisted doing this? Since 2013, the legislature has been seeking to come up with a solution to this lack of funding.
The City of Laurel has done its part by completing the paperwork requesting emergency funding and raising an emergency 2 mills on its residents to trigger the state’s 25 percent match. They have now been forced to come up with alternate funding to cover this artificial shortfall by borrowing much of the balance, to the detriment of its bond rating and the wiping out of their cash reserves.
The current governor’s office has refused to call this a disaster even though Governor Schweitzer declared it as such, as did the President of the United States. FEMA, who responds to disaster declarations such as this, has acted accordingly with the City of Laurel and has provided their 75 percent share of the intake project. The governor’s authorized representative has had input on this project in its entirety even to the point of requesting and approving an alternative site. Given these facts, why is the governor’s office opposed to fulfilling its obligation?
HB586 addresses this 25 percent match from the state’s emergency funds. Currently, it has passed the House chamber 94-4 and has received a positive hearing from the Senate Finance and Claims Committee.
The trust of the people in our state government has been compromised, and the future reliance of the state government to fulfill its responsibilities is at stake. The City of Laurel and the CHS Refinery are an integral part of the economy of Montana and deserve to be supported.
I am quite sure the Senate will now acknowledge the state’s obligation to honor its part in funding the City of Laurel’s water intake project from its emergency funds, and look forward to the Governor’s signature on this important bill.

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