A committee of legislative finance leaders got good news on the state budget Monday. After a derailment of state finances leading to a special session last November, the latest budget report from the Legislative Fiscal Division indicates indicates that state finances are improving.
However, there’s nothing the legislative committee can do to reverse the budget cuts made this winter.
State general fund revenues are up nearly 14 percent above where they were this time last year. A significant part of this bump can be attributed to work done in the special session to get state finances back on track.
During an update on the state budget Monday in the Legislative Finance Committee, Missoula Democrat Kimberly Dudik asked analysts if cuts made previously could be reversed.
"I’ve been getting a lot of emails from constituents concerned about all the budget cuts and asking us to do something," Dudik said.
Legislative staff told Dudik that the Legislature as a whole could make a change to state funding, but that a single committee could not. Meaning agency budgets could only be restored in another special session or in the next regular session in 2019.
However, if revenues come in above projections at the end of the fiscal year in June, state law would allow some of that money to be used to backfill cuts.
The greatest public outcry in recent months has come from the $49 million in state funding cuts to the Montana health department.
Legislative staff say it’s still too soon to tell how the state’s revenue picture will look at the end of the fiscal year.