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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

$1 billion Republican spending plan advances at the Legislature

Rep. Bill Mercer (R) - Billings, speaks on the House floor during debate over a Republican spending plan, Feb. 2, 2023.
Rep. Bill Mercer (R) - Billings, speaks on the House floor during debate over a Republican spending plan, Feb. 2, 2023.

Roughly $1 billion dollars in spending passed an initial vote in the Montana House of Representatives Wednesday, largely along party lines. The Republican package would provide for tax rebates, pay down the state’s debt and outline cash for infrastructure projects.

Some Montana Republicans have been lobbying to give tax rebates to residents since last summer when it was clear the state would have a $2.5 billion budget surplus.

They’re getting close to that goal with the passage of six bills in the statehouse, all of which are tied together. Democrats pushed back against almost all of the proposals, saying they’re sweeping cuts that are short-sighted.

House Bills 222 and 192 would give Montanans up to $1,000 in property tax rebates and $1,250 in individual income tax rebates over the next two years.

Republican Rep. Bill Mercer of Billings said, “Given the inflation that our taxpayers have faced, this is a very responsible thing to do. They paid in the money, they deserve to get the money back.”

House Bill 251 would pay down the state’s general obligation debt, House Bill 212 would cut the state’s business equipment tax, House Bill 221 would cut the state's capital gains tax and House Bill 267 would put $100 million toward highway construction.

Democrats in the House said the policies should have been voted on separately. Democrats also expressed concern that the relief won’t go to Montanans who need it most.

House Minority Leader Kim Abbott of Helena said it’s too early to pass these bills when the budget likely won’t be finalized for several months.

“This is too fast, it’s irresponsible and this is reckless spending,” Abbott said. “This whole package that we’ve tied together is reckless spending.”

The package must clear one more vote in the House before it can move onto the state Senate for consideration.

Shaylee covers state government and politics for Montana Public Radio. Please share tips, questions and concerns at 406-539-1677 or  
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