Forecasters say Montana’s state revenues are getting a major boost from federal stimulus, and the health of state coffers is easier to estimate now than in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. Legislative fiscal analysts gave that update to lawmakers Friday
Analysts with the Legislative Fiscal Division say the state is estimated to bring in $350 million more than first projected when lawmakers adopted a forecast for state revenue last fall. At the time, experts said there were too many unknown factors due to the COVID-19 pandemic to give a clear forecast.
Sam Schaefer with the fiscal division gave lawmakers the update as they consider how to build the state’s budget.
"Quite frankly, that’s due to two events that happened since November that were not included in the November IHS data."
One, COVID-19 vaccines became available and made reopening easier. Two, Montana is set to see a third round of relief funds from the federal government.
Schafer said Montana has received $8 billion in federal stimulus funds since the pandemic began.
The governor’s Budget Director Kurt Alme told lawmakers his staff have similar findings.
"Our update today is going to share that same overall positive revenue news that you just heard compared to last November."
However, Alme noted that much of the revenue coming into the state from the federal government is one-time-only, meaning it isn't money the state can count on long term. He said there’s still volatility in the economy and he advocated fiscal conservatism for the budget.
The update on state finances comes as the state’s major budget bill is expected to land on the House floor for debate in the coming days.