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Montana: Budgeting and Policy in the Treasure State Update

  • Author(s): Greene, Jeffrey
  • Haber, Paul
  • et al.
Abstract

Montana uses a biennium budget; there was not a legislative session in 2018.The 65th Montana Legislature ended its constitutionally mandated 90-day biennium session with a $10.3 billion, two-year all funds budget in April 2017.  The Republican-controlled legislature returned to its contentious tradition. There were several big issues, but due to budget shortfalls, and few policy issues were resolved. Infrastructure bills generally failed, although the first gas tax in decades passed to help with infrastructure needs. Montana’s colleges and universities took significant cuts in their budgets and tuition increased roughly 13 percent. Except for K-12 programs, most state agencies’ budgets were cut. Overall, it was a grim legislative session that produced very few results and resolved few problems. The balanced budget lasted less than two months when revenue projections turned out to be wrong and the governor had to use his authority to further cut expenses, which included layoffs and additional cuts to state agencies and services. It was a session marked by lack of funds and budget cuts across most agencies. As the fall season began, the state budget appeared to be in shambles only months after the session adjourned. A special session was called in November 2017 to address Montana’s $227 million budget shortfall, largely a result of the most expensive state fire season in Montana’s history.  Bills were passed to address the shortfall.  Governor Steve Bullock allowed most of the bills to become law. Although some funding would later be partly restored after the special session for some agencies, most of the cuts remained.

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