Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Capitol briefs: Gov. signs budget bills; Lawmakers want more control over the university system

Montana Capitol dome
Ellis Juhlin

Gov. Gianforte signs tax cuts bill package into law

Gov. Greg Gianforte signed a package of bills into law Monday that represents roughly a billion dollars in tax cuts, rebates, paying down the state’s debt and spending on roads and bridges.

The governor stood on the Capitol steps with the Republican caucus standing behind him and talked about the teamwork it took to get the bills passed.

“Together, our shared conservative values of fiscal responsibility, more efficient government and lower taxes guide us,” Gianforte said.

The package includes permanent income tax cuts, property tax rebates, and cuts to the state’s business equipment tax and capital gains tax. Lawmakers also added income tax rebates into the package, which went further than what Gianforte’s budget proposed.

Legislative Democrats voted against the package, saying it disproportionately benefits the wealthiest residents and that the policies should have been voted on individually. Republican lawmakers tied all six bills together.

While the governor and lawmakers showed a united front on Monday, Gianforte called on the lawmakers standing behind him to pass further legislation that has stalled in committee, including his proposed child tax credit for families that make $56,000 a year or less.

The House Appropriations Committee voted to table the proposal, and while it could be revived, there’s no guarantee.

Proposed House bill would change the state constitution to limit the power of the Board of Regents

Montana lawmakers are considering a proposed change to the state Constitution to limit the power of the Board of Regents, which oversees the state university system. This comes after a court struck down a law seeking to expand access to guns on college campuses.

House Bill 517 would ask voters to give the state Legislature power to supersede the state Board of Regents to enact protections for civil liberties on state college campuses.

Rep. Mike Hopkins, a Missoula Republican, is carrying the bill and says he supports the ability of the university system to make their own decisions when it comes to curriculum, but...

“I think that it’s patently ridiculous to say that the Board of Regents is capable of deciding at any given time what constitutional liberties or constitutional rights individual citizens of the state of Montana have access to,” Hopkins said.

In 2021, Republican lawmakers passed a bill to expand concealed carry laws in Montana, including on college campuses. In a unanimous decision, the Montana Supreme Court struck down the law as it applied to campuses, ruling that the constitution grants the Board of Regents sole authority to regulate the university system.

Several university students came to testify in support of Hopkin’s bill, saying they feel their rights to free speech and to bear arms are hindered on campus.

Several other students and the Montana Board of Regents spoke in opposition, saying protections for constitutional rights already exist and that the bill would politicize institutions that are supposed to remain impartial.

A constitutional amendment requires a two-thirds majority vote to go on the next ballot for consideration by all Montana voters.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Flipboard
  • LinkedIn
  • Email
Shaylee covers state government and politics for Montana Public Radio. Please share tips, questions and concerns at 406-539-1677 or