Billion dollar spending plan nears passage in the Legislature
Roughly a billion dollars in spending contained in a package of bills is close to the finish line in the Montana Legislature. It accounts for more than a third of the state’s budget surplus.
After initial disagreement between Gov. Greg Gianforte and legislative Republicans, the package of bills to cut taxes, provide one-time-only rebates and fund public works projects has been endorsed by both chambers of the state Legislature.
Republican Sen. Greg Hertz of Polson criticized Democrats for voting against the package, saying Montanans have been struggling with inflation and the rising cost of housing.
“We’ve just seen them vote down property tax rebates, which is a number one priority I think of all our constituents,” Hertz said.
Democrats have brought bills to offer tax relief to both property owners and renters, and other proposals to help low-income Montanans, but those bills have been shot down by the Legislature’s Republican supermajority. Sen. Ryan Lynch, a Democrat from Butte, says the package championed by Republicans in short-sighted.
“It’s a nice headline to say we gave property tax relief. It’s a one-off, it actually doesn’t do anything for the long-term ongoing,” Lynch said.
The advancing package of bills would give Montanans up to $1,000 in property tax rebates and $1,250 in individual income tax rebates, pay down the state’s general obligation debt, cut the state’s business equipment tax and capital gains tax and put $100 million toward road and bridge projects. The six bills are tied together and cannot take effect in full unless all pass.
Another top priority bill for Republicans containing income tax cuts and an expansion of the state’s earned income tax credit passed the Senate and was endorsed by the House on Tuesday.
Gov. Gianforte urged lawmakers to get the bills to his desk as quickly as possible.