Montana Public Radio

Senate Leaders From Both Parties Back State Budget Bill

Apr 4, 2019

The $10.3 billion state budget is cruising through the Montana Legislature. It passed its first votes in the state Senate today.

Both Republican and Democratic leadership are backing the massive bill outlining the state’s checkbook for the next two fiscal years. The budget passed the critical Senate vote 27-22, with factions of each party opposing it.

According to eight-term state lawmaker Jon Sesso from Butte, the Democrat who’s currently Senate Minority Leader, "This one’s probably in as good of shape as we’ve seen in recent years, certainly in my tenure."

However, some lawmakers unsatisfied with the plan brought amendments to debate on the Senate floor. Most were rejected, including  proposals for additional Medicaid funding for assisted-living services serving the elderly and poor.

Lawmakers did pass a change that would potentially allow the state to use $2.5 million from taxes on medical marijuana to fund Medicaid services for adults with substance use disorders and mental health disorders.

Sen. Ryan Osmundson, a Republican from Buffalo, is the chair of the Senate Finance and Claims Committee.  

"It’s a good budget. It's not a perfect budget, but it is a good budget." 

The House and Senate have finished most of their work to build the state budget, but other significant legislation that could impact state finances may still change, pass, or fail — including a proposal to continue Medicaid expansion.

According to a three-year forecast of state revenue by the Legislative Fiscal Division, Montana’s current economic outlook is stable. However, the nonpartisan state analysis says slowing global growth, weaker stock prices, and the effects of recent tariffs are impacting the estimate, which projects the state will earn less than originally planned for by lawmakers.

A final vote in the Senate, expected in the coming days, will send the budget back to the House.