Montana Public Radio

Llew Jones

Sally Mauk: Welcome to a special edition of "Capitol Talk" our political analysis program I'm Sally Mauk And I'm joined by University of Montana Political Science Professor Rob Saldin and veteran Capitol Reporter Chuck Johnson.

Chuck, the Legislature met in special session for three days this week to deal with a $227 million budget shortfall. And they've come up with a combination of cuts and transfers and fees to deal with it but not with any new tax increases as the governor had proposed. Republicans of course control the House and Senate, and Chuck they got a lot of what they wanted out of this special session.

The fact Montana lawmakers were going into this week's special legislative session with no pre-negotiated "deal" in place gave many at the Capitol heartburn. The session wrapped up shortly after 1 a.m. Thursday morning. Governor Steve Bullock called legislators back to the Capitol to help address a projected $227 million dollar budget shortfall and backfill the state's depleted wildfire fighting fund. 

Montana House Speaker Austin Knudsen at a Republican caucus press conference Tuesday
Corin Cates-Carney

Governor Steve Bullock’s outline for the special legislative session began to unravel yesterday as the Legislature's Republican majority moved their own plan for balancing the state budget

GOP Budget Plan Hopes To 'Corral' Governor

Nov 13, 2017
Rep. Rob Cook
Montana Legislature

Shelby prison deal could be Bullock’s “one exit”

As state lawmakers lay the groundwork for a special legislative session to tackle Montana’s $227 budget shortfall, the proposed GOP deal for how to plug the gap is coming into focus.

At the same time, two independent sources have confirmed to the Montana Free Press that Gov. Steve Bullock, a Democrat, in “in talks” with top executives of CoreCivic, the owners of a private prison in Shelby that is at the center of the 2017 special session’s most contentious proposal. CoreCivic is offering to return $30 million in state money set aside for the eventual purchase of the 664-bed prison in exchange for a 10-year renewal on its contract to operate the facility. That contract is up in 2019.

Montana Capitol.
William Marcus / Montana Public Radio

Governor Steve Bullock Monday called for a special legislative session to convene later this month to balance the state's budget. Here's Bullock at a press conference Monday afternoon:

"I’m calling the Legislature back to Helena for a special session to begin with hearings convening next Monday, November 13, and for the full body to convene Tuesday the 14th at noon."

Office of the governor, budget and program planning.
William Marcus

The governor's office says a special legislative session could be called in the coming weeks as the administration and the conservative majority party inch closer to striking a deal on a plan to balance the state budget.

State Budget Director Dan Villa called reporters into his office Wednesday for a brief update on the ongoing political tug-of-war over state spending as Montana faces a $227 million revenue shortfall.

Montana’s only private prison has allegedly offered a $30 million dollar bailout to help the state with its budget woes. However, there's a catch.

In order to receive the $30 million dollars from CoreCivic, the company that owns the prison, the Bullock administration would need to extend that company’s contract for another ten years.


Rep. Nancy Ballance (R) - Hamilton.
Mike Albans

Montana may need to change the way it applies taxes to collect revenue amid a changing state economy, according to state elected officials searching for solutions during the ongoing budget crisis.

Republicans Nancy Ballance, Llew Jones, and Eric Moore sit opposite Democrats Jon Sesso and Kelly McCarthy as they draft a letter asking the governor to reconsider  some of his 10 percent cuts to state agencies
Corin Cates-Carney

Updated 7:00 pm

Some Republican legislative leaders are now saying Montana will need a special session to deal with the state’s current budget crisis, and that they may bring debate of targeted, temporary tax increases.

Hamilton Representative Nancy Ballance joined several other Republicans on the Legislative Finance Committee yesterday in saying that the state needs to pay for this summer’s firefighting costs.

Montana Capitol, Helena, MT.
William Marcus / Montana Public Radio

A proposal for a new kind of rainy-day fund to protect Montana from future boom and bust swings in the state budget passed out of a House committee Wednesday.

Lawmakers are considering a change to how the state saves money, creating a new system allowing the state to react more quickly when it faces a shortfall in revenue.

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