Governor Steve Bullock (D-MT) was on the defensive as he “ventured into the lion’s den” according to a report by KTVQ-TV’s Jay Kohn following Wednesday’s Big Sky Energy Forum. Bullock under fire from leaders in Eastern Montana after he vetoed an oil and gas impact bill to fund infrastructure needs.
Kohn quoted Sidney, Montana Mayor Bret Smelser, representing the heart of the oil patch in Montana, who is asking for a loan from North Dakota.
I was standing next to Jay Kohn as Mayor Smelser told him that he has called North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple and asked him if he would consider floating the town of Sidney a loan. Smelser added,”If my Governor won’t help…maybe our Governor to the east will.”
Click below to watch Kohn’s full report, along with the Governor’s response:
Rep. Duane Ankney, R-Colstrip, who sponsored House Bill 218, had this to say in The Billings Gazette:
“When I hear the governor saying the budget was being shorted, the revenue estimates show we would still have a $287 million ending fund balance in 2015 and a $17 million structural balance,” Ankney said. “These are really not making sense to me. I’m sure he’s getting his information from his budget director, but it sure is going to raise havoc with Eastern Montana.”
Bainville, Culbertson, Glendive and Miles City are all feeling major impacts from energy development in Eastern Montana and western North Dakota, but they have no money to pay for pressing infrastructure needs, Ankney said.
Bullock countered with this:
Counties facing the effects of energy development will receive more than $22 million from Senate Bill 175, which provided more money for education; $16 million from the Treasure State Endowment Program is being funneled to Eastern Montana to pay for infrastructure; water projects will be fully funded; and an additional $5 million in transportation funding is also heading toward the region, Bullock said.
Meanwhile, as I previously noted on this blog, State Sen. Matt Rosendale (R-Glendive) told me on our statewide radio show, Voices of Montana, that these were existing programs that will hardly meet the needs in Eastern Montana, adding that Bullock basically did nothing new for infrastructure in Eastern Montana despite all the money that is going to the state capital in Helena.
Here’s an initial report from Marnee Banks with MTN in Helena: “Bullock Vetoes Spur Opposition in Eastern Montana“
Over in Sidney, Mayor Bret Smelser says he’s highly disappointed with the Governor’s decision and the lack of communication.
“Why didn’t he pick up the phone and call Glendive, Baker, Sidney, Bainville? Why didn’t he tell them he was going to veto it?” Smelser asked.
“Those politics that are played in Helena, are played in Helena,” Smelser said. “We are the ones out here with boots on the ground. We are the ones out here that have to do the heavy lifting to make sure that the state has an oil and gas revenue stream.”
Related, from The Missoulian, Bakken counties outpace growth in Montana Metro areas.
The population in Montana counties near the Bakken oil patch outpaced the state’s metropolitan counties when viewed by their percent of growth, according to new figures released by the University of Montana.
While the numbers could spell discouragement for some counties, those with an eye on the economy – which in part drives population – believe the next 18 months will bring renewed opportunity to Missoula County, including supporting industries associated with energy development in Eastern Montana.
Citing new figures by the U.S. Census Bureau, the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at UM reported that Richland County stood among the state’s fastest-growing counties with 6.6 percent population growth, amounting to 667 new residents.