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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

No Agreement Over Budget Forecasts Between Legislature, Governor's Office

Office of the governor, budget and program planning.
William Marcus

Following the collapse of the state budget last year, lawmakers are considering changing how the state plans out its budgeting process. However, a proposal from the state budget director on the topic doesn't seem to be receiving support from Republican finance leaders.

Dan Villa, the governor’s budget director, told lawmakers Tuesday that the state should adopt a more collaborative approach to setting a projection for incoming revenue, which is used to build the state budget. Currently the Legislature and executive do not need to agree on this revenue forecast.

“So to the extent that we have a consensus process on how we spend the state’s dollars, it only makes sense that we work toward a consensus process on how the state takes dollars in,” Villa says.

However Republican Senator Llew Jones says this proposal is viewed by some lawmakers as an attempt to remove power from the legislative branch.

“Certainly, because right now the Legislature doesn’t have to consent with anyone to make a forecast.”

Jones says the state Constitution says it’s the Legislature's job to come in every two years to set spending levels and make a revenue forecast.

Jones, like Villa, says lawmakers and the executive need to consider ways to improve the revenue estimating and make it less political, but there isn’t agreement yet on how to do that.

The Republican Senator says a full consensus between the branches of government amid the revenue estimating process for the state would take a culture shift within the Legislature that doesn't seem likely in the coming years.

Corin Cates-Carney manages MTPR’s daily and long-term news projects. After spending more than five years living and reporting across Western and Central Montana, he became news director in early 2020.
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