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state budget

Capitol Talk: Budget Puzzle, Lawsuits And The Limits Of Public Input

Mar 19, 2021

The many moving parts of the state budget have pushed lawmakers to extend the session — but Montana's Legislature isn't the state's only busy branch.

Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen has filed yet another lawsuit against the Biden Administration. At the same time, prominent Montanans are suing Gov. Greg Gianforte over his effort to directly appoint judges.

And, as a racist social media post by a Republican lawmaker resurfaces, Montanans are learning that overwhelming public opposition to legislation does not guarantee a bill's defeat.

Listen now on Capitol Talk with Sally Mauk, Holly Michels and Rob Saldin.

Individual income tax revenue forecast for the 2023 biennium as of March 19, 2021. Income tax is the state's largest revenue source.
Legislative Fiscal Division

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

Montana Capitol bulding in Helena, MT.
Shaylee Rager / UM Legislative News Service

Montana lawmakers advanced a preliminary state budget last week that outlines $12 billion in spending over the next two years. It's expected to land on the House floor for debate in the coming days.

If nothing changes, the state will spend about $400 million more in the next biennium than it did over the last two years. That’s a 3.4% increase, according to the Legislative Fiscal Division. But the budget has only cleared one hurdle of many before it becomes law.

With limited information, Montana lawmakers are beginning to sort out how to spend nearly $1 billion in state funds from the federal coronavirus relief package signed into law last week.

Of Montana’s slice from the American Rescue Plan Act, the Legislature needs to appropriate an estimated $910 million in discretionary state money.

State relief spending must generally be tied to coronavirus-related impacts, though lawmakers have more latitude with water, sewer and broadband infrastructure dollars.

Tax calculator

Republican lawmakers are considering doubling a tax cut Gov. Greg Gianforte has proposed for the top marginal income bracket.

Hearing room at the Montana Capitol.
William Marcus / Montana Public Radio

Montana lawmakers advanced a roughly $12 billion state budget Friday. The budget’s passage out of committee is the first major step of many that he Legislature will take to pass a balanced budget.

Montana lawmakers added $1 billion back into a preliminary outline of the state health department’s biennial budget. The lawmakers overseeing state health finances voted unanimously to restore the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services budget.

Rep. Paul Fielder (R) - HD13
Montana Legislature

Montana lawmakers will take another crack at changing how the state collects taxes on Social Security income. A similar proposal was vetoed by Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock.

Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte unveils his budget proposal in a press conference at the Montana Capitol in Helena January 7, 2021. The proposal promises a $100 million decrease in state spending over the next two years.
Austin Amestoy / UM Legislative News Service

State lawmakers got their first briefing Tuesday on Gov. Greg Gianforte’s plan to bridge gaps in Montana’s behavioral health care system.

Montana House Minority Leader Kim Abbott speaks to the press on the Capitol steps January 5, 2021. She said Montana Democrats have had “good conversations” with Gov. Greg Gianforte and House and Senate Republicans regarding policy goals for the session.
Austin Amestoy / UM Legislative News Service

Montana Democratic lawmakers rolled out three policy proposals on Thursday that they say will provide tax relief to the state’s middle- and low-income earners. The tax breaks would be paid for by increasing taxes on people who make more than $500,000 a year.