Montana Public Radio

Amy Carlson

Montana lawmakers in the Revenue Interim Committee reviewed revenue forecasts Thursday that will help guide state budget decisions during the 2021 legislative session.

In a year filled with economic uncertainty and a recession due to the coronavirus pandemic, state financial experts warn that some impacts to the state budget remain to be seen.

Montana Capitol building.
Nick Mott / MTPR

The state’s budget has healthy reserves to make up for revenue shortfalls amid economic fallout due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to state finance experts.

On Wednesday, Legislative Fiscal Division staff presented a report predicting the state’s reserves can cover projected losses through the next fiscal year, but that the rainy day fund will be weaker by the 2023 biennium.

Legislative analysts estimate Montana would have to spend nearly $59 million more over two years to continue its Medicaid expansion program.

But those costs of providing health insurance for about 95,000 people could be covered by expected state revenue.

Montana ranks 9th in the U.S. in terms of state personal income growth according to the latest comparison from the Pew Charitable Trusts.
Pew Charitable Trusts

A decade out from the Great Recession, personal incomes and wages are growing in Montana faster than most other places in the United States.

“It’s one of the top ten states with the strongest growth in total personal income, both over the ten years since the start of the Great Recession and over the past year,” says Barb Rosewicz, a project director with The Pew Charitable Trusts State Fiscal Health research team.

Montana's Gross State Product growth by industry sector. Nov. 19, 2018
Montana Legislative Fiscal Division

Montana’s Gross State Product, wages and personal income are expected to grow between 3 and 4 percent each of the next few years, according to reports given to lawmakers Monday. That growth rate is slightly below the state’s long-term trend since 2001.

Those reports from the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Division drove a projection for how much tax revenue Montana is expected to bring in as lawmakers start building the state’s next two-year budget.

Dancers at the Arlee  Esyapqeyni in June
Eric Whitney

Funding for a Native American language preservation program could get cut next month if revenues don’t increase as the state fiscal year comes to an end. 

The State-Tribal Relations Interim Committee was briefed by legislative staff Thursday that budget cuts will be triggered in mid-August.

Amy Carlson, a Legislative Fiscal Analyst, says state revenues have continued falling below projections since lawmakers passed the state budget in April.

Governor Bullock, with Budget Director Dan Villa. Governor Bullock released his revenue and spending plan Nov. 15 at the Capitol in Helena.
Corin Cates-Carney

State revenues have again fallen short of lawmakers’ expectations and could trigger funding cuts across state agencies in the coming months.

Senator Fred Thomas, Republican from Stevensville.
Corin Cates-Carney

On Thursday, lawmakers got their first look at how much money is likely to be in the state’s checking account as they head into the upcoming legislative session.

It turns out that, even after a year of economic downturn and declining sales of coal, oil and gas, the state’s revenue picture is actually looking up.

OBPP

Governor Steve Bullock announced his support Wednesday for a voter initiative to expand Medicaid, called the Healthy Montana Initiative.

Medicaid expansion is an optional piece of the Federal Affordable Care Act, and Republican majorities in the Montana Legislature decided not to approve it in 2013.