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UPDATE – Funds for Missoula College on Hold for Now in Montana Legislature – Student Leader Promotes South Campus Location [AUDIO]

Funds for Missoula College on Hold.
photo by Peter Christian

On Wednesday, The Montana Senate Finance and Claims Committee to table a $180 million dollar state plan to fund building projects on state campuses, including monies for the Montana College project in Missoula.

Kevin McRae, Associate Commissioner for Higher Education released a statement on Friday afternoon, April 12, 2013 from Helena.

“Earlier this legislative session, the House passed HB 5, a bill to spend cash on a number of building projects, including about $74 million in cash expenditures on Montana University System buildings.

The Missoula College project was in HB 5.

When I say “spend cash,” I mean, the Legislature would appropriate general fund dollars to that purpose. Thursday, the Senate Finance and Claims Committee tabled HB 5 (didn’t pass it, didn’t kill it, just voted to take it out of play). The reason stated by Committee leadership is they don’t envision a general fund “end balance” large enough to fund it, once all other budget items are passed this session.

What’s it mean? No one can say with certainty, including members of the House or Senate.

The House could revive a bonding bill (e.g., HB 14) and send it to the Senate, if enough House members could support a bonding bill over a cash bill.

With a bonding bill, unlike a cash appropriation bill, the state issues bonds and incurs debt and pays off the bonds over twenty or thirty years.

But the House has not done that yet (has not revived HB 14 as a bonding vehicle to send to the senate).

Or, the Senate committee could un-table HB 5 and bring it back to life, but they haven’t done that yet.”

Sara Smith, Vice President of Phi Theta Kappa said Friday, April 12, that “there are about 900 students traveling back and forth from the Missoula College to the Mountain Campus for campus. I believe that  the proximity is absolutely essential for the commute, but also for the student morale. Smith continued, “we already suffer a feeling of isolation on our West campus, where those folks are not being accommodated as far as transportation goes. There are no buses running from the Mountain campus to the west campus on South Avenue, so those students must pay all their own transportation costs. Students are paying for services they have no access to,” Smith said.

Controversy still surrounds where the new Missoula College will be located. The University of Montana is moving on with its plan to place the facility on the grounds of the present University of Montana golf course. Community groups have insisted that the new college be placed at Fort Missoula.

University of Montana officials are optimistic that funding for the college will eventually be restored.

Phi Theta Kappa Vice President Sara Smith

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