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Expect 'Significant Belt-Tightening' This Legislative Session, Says Senate Finance Chairman

Sen. Llew Jones (R) - SD9
Montana Legislature
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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:

"And there is going to have to be some significant belt-tightening that goes across the board, and that doesn’t come without pain."

That pain, Jones says, may come by way of 5 percent cuts across government agencies.

He says Democratic Governor Steve Bullock has already proposed significant budget cuts, but Republicans aren’t likely agree with how the governor wants to increase state revenue.

Bullock introduced his budget earlier this month, calling for a one percent income-tax increase on people making more than $500,000 a year.

Jones says he doesn’t expect that proposal to move forward with a Republican controlled legislature. But a revenue source that Jones thinks Republican will be in favor of is removing the current tuition freeze for in-state university students.

"I would say that there is almost a certainty that this year there will not be a tuition freeze."

That tuition freeze has been in place for four years.

Jones says infrastructure is also a priority this year, and given the state’s budget outlook, those projects may need to be funded through a mixture of cash and bonds. Last session, Republicans rejected bonds as a funding source for infrastructure.

Corin Cates-Carney is the news director at Montana Public Radio. He joined MTPR in 2015 and is a graduate of the University of Montana School of Journalism.
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