MTPR

Montana Legislative Fiscal Division

Hunter. Stock photo.
iStock

Out-of-staters are becoming a greater share of the hunters and anglers in Montana. Out-of-state anglers accounted for more than 85% of the increase in Montana fishing license holders from 2010 to 2017, according to data gathered by the Legislative Fiscal Division.

Reynermedia.com (CC-BY-2.0)

A new state economic forecast published Wednesday says Montana isn’t projected to bring in as much money as lawmakers initially expected at the beginning of the legislative session.

The three-year forecast is the latest monthly update lawmakers received as they work to create and pass a state budget bill for the next two years. That work is nearing its end, with less than 10 days left in the 2019 legislative session.

Power plant at Colstrip, MT.
Beth Saboe / MontanaPBS

A rewritten Republican plan aimed at protecting the future of the coal-fired power plant in Colstrip is moving forward. But concerns remain about its potential impact on Montanans’ electric bills.

When the so-called Montana Energy Security Act of 2019 was first introduced it drew comparisons to the deregulation of the Montana Power Company in the late 1990s, which skyrocketed electric bills across the state.

Taxes To Again Dominate Budget Talks At The Montana Legislature

Jan 17, 2019
Rep. Nancy Ballance, R-Hamilton, sits in the House of Representatives on Jan. 10, 2019. Ballance is the chair of the House Appropriations Committee.
Shaylee Rager / UM Legislative News Service

HELENA — Taxes are shaping up to be one of the big debates of the 2019 Montana Legislature.

The budget estimates from the governor’s office and the Legislative Fiscal Division are roughly the same -- about $10 billion over two years to fund a variety of state agencies and programs. The budget includes everything from education to the state’s share of Medicaid expansion.

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.

Montana Capitol.
William Marcus / Montana Public Radio

Revenue projections indicate the state will likely have enough money at the end of the fiscal year to backfill $45 million in cuts made to state agencies during last year’s special legislative session.

“We are extremely hopeful,” says Representative Nancy Ballance, the Republican chair of the Legislative Finance Committee, which met Monday morning.

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

Republican leaders say they have not yet struck a deal with Governor Steve Bullock on how to solve the state's current budget crisis. While talks between the conservative legislative majority and the executive have informally created a starting point for a potential special legislative session, a complete solution has still not been reached.

Montana Capitol.
William Marcus / MTPR

Montana is facing a state budget crisis. The state is projected to have about $200 million less than it needs to fund everything in the budget that lawmakers and the governor agreed to this year. That much is clear, but there's a lot of disagreement about why the $200 million hole is there, and what to do about it.

Today and tomorrow we're going to take a look why the state budget is so far out of whack.

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