On Feb. 9, Barb and I had the pleasure of attending the annual Montana State University-Northern "We Love Northern Ball" at the Northern gymnasium in Havre. This annual event has, for many years, been a great source of vital scholarships that enable so many students to attend Northern. The evening proved a great opportunity to visit with many of the public-spirited community members who tirelessly give of themselves to promote the great educational institution that Northern is.
Chancellor Jim Limbaugh and I were able to discuss the ongoing efforts to secure passage of the governor's Jobs and Opportunities for Building Schools Act, which includes funding for the new Auto-Diesel Building on the Northern campus. The new building would replace the inadequate structure that now houses Northern's signature programs in diesel and auto technology. I will continue to work hard to secure passage of that bill and am working with several legislators to ease the matching requirement for the project to a level that is workable for the institution and the community. I remain hopeful that we can succeed in both endeavors.
The JOBS bill, being a bonding bill, requires a two-thirds vote of each House of the Legislature. That is a high bar to reach, but the bill has an enormous cross-section of support from nearly every segment of our economy and every region of our state.
The other day, as I sat at lunch with a number of members of the House, a few of them were expressing skepticism about the bill because it does involve nearly $100 million in state bonding debt. However, their concern is misplaced. Currently Montana enjoys one of the very best credit ratings of all the states. Our current, outstanding level of bonded indebtedness is at its lowest point in years and the interest rates for this kind of project are at historically low numbers. Since these legislators are members of the House, I am hopeful that representatives Hansen and Warburton are able to persuade them that the JOBS bill is a great investment in Montana's infrastructure and Montana's future.
I am proud that the MSU-Northern project is a flagship project leading to that great future.
As always, I'm interested in listening to your thoughts and ideas on the legislative process. Your input ensures that citizens continue to run our democracy. Please email me online at http://leg.mt.gov/message/, call me at 406-444-4800 or write me at Montana State Senate, PO Box 200500, Helena, MT 59620.
Thanks for reading — until next time.
(State Sen. Greg Jergeson, a Democrat from Chinook, represents SD 17, which includes northern Hill and Blaine counties. During his 31 years of service as a state senator and public service commissioner, Jergeson has served north-central and northeastern Montana, including Liberty, Hill, Choteau and Blaine counties. He'll be sending a weekly "Hello from Helena" update to keep the Hi-Line informed.)