MTPR

Llew Jones

Montana Capitol.
William Marcus

A proposal for a new kind of rainy-day fund to protect Montana from future boom and bust swings in the state budget passed out of a House committee Wednesday.

Lawmakers are considering a change to how the state saves money, creating a new system allowing the state to react more quickly when it faces a shortfall in revenue.

Now that both the full House and Senate have had their a chance to work on the state’s main budget bill, attention is returning to what legislative leaders have said is the priority this session—infrastructure.

Montana Capitol
William Marcus

The Montana Senate approved a state budget today that’s about $19 million above the budget passed by the House of Representatives.

The state budget moved out of the Senate in a brief morning vote 29-20.

William Marcus

Governor Steve Bullock's office warned lawmakers Tuesday that they’re risking a special legislative session and budget cuts if they rely too much on new, more optimistic state revenue projections to fund the state budget.

The amount of money a campus in the Montana University System receives from the state for a full-time resident student varies, sometimes widely.

The high is about $11,000 for a student at MSU-Northern to a low of $6,500 at Great Falls College MSU, according to data gathered by the Legislative Fiscal Division.


Familiar Infrastructure Ideas Return to 2017 Session

Jan 17, 2017

There was a bit of déjà vu surrounding a bill that seeks to use coal tax money to pay for crumbling public works and state buildings.

“I think the bill is familiar to many of us,” said Dan Villa, Governor Steve Bullock’s budget director.

Montana’s cash cushion has grown smaller since the 2015 Legislative session largely because of declining revenue from natural resource extraction and lower tax collections.

That’s why lawmakers are summoning state agencies to see if they would make spending cuts in their current budgets to help Montana’s ailing “checkbook.”


Sen. Llew Jones (R) SD9
Montana Legislature

At a conference for farmers in Great Falls today, state lawmakers gave a preview of the budget fight to come in the upcoming legislative session.

Conrad Republican Llew Jones chairs Montana's Senate Finance Committee. He says he expects budget cuts to be the big issue during the 2017 legislative session:

Praying with a rosary
(PD)

This week, three parents from a Christian school in Kalispell filed a suit over the state’s exclusion of religious schools in a program to provide scholarships for public and private education.

Kendra Espinoza is one of the plaintiffs in the case. She says scholarships are the only reason why she can afford to send her kids to the private religious school she chooses.

Sen. Llew Jones (R) SD9
Montana Legislature

The State Department of revenue heard over an hour of testimony today over its controversial proposed new rule. It says a new tax credit scholarship program cannot be used to benefit religious-affiliated schools. 

Montana Capitol.
William Marcus

Montana’s Department of Revenue caused a furor when it said people who donate to private religious schools don’t qualify for new tax credits created by this year’s legislature. Representative Mary Anne Dunwell, a Helena Democrat, agrees:

State Budget Work Could Begin Wednesday

Apr 20, 2015

The chairs of the House Appropriations Committee and Senate Finance and Claims expect Wednesday is the earliest day the joint conference committee will meet to begin work on hammering out the differences over the state budget.

Chuck Johnson, Sally Mauk and Mike Dennison
Eliza Wiley

This week on "Capitol Talk": The Flathead water compact and "dark money" disclosure bills are on their way to the Governor's desk. Work remains on the state budget, the pay plan, and infrastructure funding bill. Will the legislature adjourn early? Sally, Chuck, and Mike bring you up to speed on this week at the legislature.

Legislative Roundup: Medicaid Expansion, State Budget Advance

Apr 12, 2015
From left, House Speaker Austin Knudsen, R-Culbertson, Rep. Jeff Essmann, R-Billings, and Minority Leader Chuck Hunter, D-Helena, debate rules on the House floor April 8.
Michael Wright - UM Community News Service

After wrangling over rules, the last remaining bill to expand Medicaid at the 64th Montana Legislature appears to be headed to the governor’s desk.

Chuck Johnson, Sally Mauk and Mike Dennison
Eliza Wiley

This week on "Capitol Talk": The bitter fight in the House over Medicaid expansion, the state budget fights yet to come, the Flathead water compact's chances for passage, and the legacy of former Governor Tim Babcock, who passed away this week.

Early Education Funding Fails To Make The Cut In Senate Budget

Apr 9, 2015

The Republican-controlled Senate today gave preliminary approval to the state’s main budget bill. The GOP majority allowed only a few technical amendments and resisted attempts by Democrats to add additional funding or programs to House Bill 2. This includes a Bullock Administration proposal to fund early childhood education.

State Budget On Thursday's Legislative Agenda

Apr 8, 2015
Montana capitol, Helena.
William Marcus

Thursday at the Montana Legislature, the state budget heads to the full Senate.

Senate Committee Restores Some Funding Cut By House

Apr 3, 2015
Montana Capitol, Helena.
William Marcus

The Senate Finance and Claims Committee added about $55 million of general fund dollars back into the state budget. That’s according to preliminary figures from the Legislative Fiscal Division.

Not quite half of that amount was to cover cost over-runs in the current biennium.

This year’s cost overruns total about $31 million.

For Senator Buttrey, Medicaid Expansion Is A Riddle And A Risk

Mar 25, 2015
Sen. Ed Buttrey (R) SD13
Montana Legislature

Middle ground on Medicaid expansion eluded the Montana Legislature in 2013, and since then Senator Ed Buttrey, R-Great Falls, has studied the issue, talked to hospitals and members of the other party and others to get to where he was last week: standing in front of the Senate Public Health, Welfare and Safety Committee.

Budget Hearings Continue Thursday At The Montana Legislature

Mar 18, 2015
Montana capitol, Helena.
William Marcus

Thursday, the Montana House of Representatives continue hearings for the statewide budget. It’s unlikely to change, even though it faces more than 100 Democratic amendments, because of strong Republican support of the current bill.

Senate Votes Down 'Nicer De-icer' Bill

Feb 26, 2015
Montana Department of Transportation

As it rushed toward its mid-session break, the Montana Senate Thursday killed a bill to cut back on the corrosive de-icing chemicals sprayed on the state’s roadways each winter.

Republican Dee Brown of Hungry Horse says the Montana Transportation Department is using more salt-based chemicals to melt ice on Montana’s highways, potentially damaging not just cars and trucks, but the environment as well.

"I am very concerned that the runoff and continuing runoff of chloride-based products is not good for us," Brown said.

Gov. Bullock's Preschool Program Faces GOP Opposition

Feb 24, 2015
Courtesy Photo

Representative Tom Woods sent his kids to preschool after searching for a couple of months to find the right fit.

“I’ve got kids. I’ve been through this,” Woods said in a recent interview. “Preschool helped them.”

Legislature's Education Debate Centers On Funding, Choice, Control

Feb 1, 2015
State Senator Scott Sales (R).
Michael Wright

Sen. Scott Sales, R-Bozeman, sat in his office recently and talked about why he supports school choice, a nationwide movement to increase access to charter and private schools.

“I’m of the belief that the child’s education isn’t the responsibility of the state,” he said. “It’s the parent.”

MUS Officials Say They're Meeting Benchmarks Set By 2013 Legislature

Jan 30, 2015
UM's Vice President for Integrated Communications, Peggy Kuhr, says 13,044 students are attending UM this fall semester, a 6 and one half percent drop from last fall.
Josh Burnham

Montana University System officials told lawmakers they are meeting the benchmarks the 2013 Montana Legislature set toward increasing student retention and graduation.

Commissioner of Higher Education Clayton Christian says performance based funding is driving change at Montana’s colleges and universities.

"You know what it’s done is its creating focus for us," said Christian. "And that’s the good thing. We’re talking about things that will affect student success. That’s the bottom line of what it’s creating."

Democrats Hope To Shrink GOP Majorities In Montana Legislature

Oct 20, 2014

From the seat of his combine in the Helena Valley, Republican Senate candidate Joe Dooling talked about why he decided to run for the Legislature.

“I’m just wondering where all the grownups are,” he said.

The 2013 legislative session was marked by a split between conservatives and moderates in the Republican majority, at least one day of banging on tables and more than 70 vetoes from Gov. Steve Bullock, a Democrat. Dooling said he was frustrated by all of it.

Edward O'Brien

Governor Steve Bullock's early childhood education proposal received an enthusiastic response today at a Missoula pre-kindergarten program, even as critics are wondering about its expense and value to taxpayers.

House Hopeful Ryan Zinke Banks On Experience, Leadership

Oct 10, 2014
Rep. Ryan Zinke.
Kaci Felstet

  You’ve seen Ryan Zinke’s ads, the ones with the medals, the flags and the tall, square-jawed candidate in combat fatigues or the dress uniform of a Navy Seal.

“In the Seals we’re taught to lead from the front and never quit until the job is done,” he said in one ad before the primary. “Isn’t that what we need in Washington right now?”

MT's budget on track

Mar 14, 2014

Analysts expect Montana’s budget surplus to be slightly higher than previous predictions.

The estimate comes from the Legislative Fiscal Division. It now predicts the state will have nearly $353 million left in the bank at the end of this budget cycle. That’s almost $6 million higher than estimates in December.

Conrad Republican Senator Llew Jones chairs the Legislative Finance committee, which looks at the budget between Legislative sessions. He said, overall, the budget is staying right about where it should.