MTPR

state budget

The Montana Capitol in Helena.
Mike Albans

Budget woes, bonding, bike taxes and bathroom bills. What were Montana lawmakers actually up to in the last legislative session(s)? Get a refresher, and take a look ahead as the 2019 Legislature approaches. Think of it as a 2017 season recap, but for the Montana Legislature.

Montana's 2018 infrastructure report card from the American Society of Civil Engineers.
American Society of Civil Engineers

There’s been some improvement in Montana’s roads, bridges and other public works projects since 2014, but they’re still generally in mediocre shape. That’s according to a new report card from the American Society of Civil Engineers. It gave Montana a ‘C’ grade Thursday in its latest analysis of public infrastructure here.

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

There is a fight brewing in the Montana Legislature over how much power House leadership should have to keep bills they don’t like from going forward. It’s revealing lines between conservative and moderate factions in the Republican caucus; and how it plays out could determine the way high-profile policy is made.

“There’s a lot at stake in this game,” says Derek Skees, a Republican party whip in the House.

A firefighter stands in front of flames from a wildfire.
(PD)

The 2018 fire season has cost the state $6.7 million as of the end of November, according to the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation.

That’s significantly under the state’s average fire bill of around $20 million over the last decade.

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 State Capitol.
William Marcus / Montana Public Radio

Both the Montana Governor’s Office and a group of independent legislative researchers have come up with estimates of how much money will be available for state budgeting over the next two years.

The different projections for how much lawmakers can assume the state will earn from taxes and other revenues is separated by about two tenths of a percent. That amounts to about $10 million. That’s a relatively small amount in the context of the more than $5 billion in revenues that both estimates say the state will bring in in the next two years.

State, County Officials Differ On Montana's Voting Needs

Nov 16, 2018
Voters in Clinton, MT cast ballots during the 2016 elections.
Rebekah Welch

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — The midterm elections saw a record number of absentee ballots overwhelm voting machines in some Montana counties, found election officials in a dozen smaller counties still hand-counting votes and underscored the need to replace hundreds of aging and broken voting machines for the disabled.

Governor Steve Bullock announced his budget priorities for the upcoming 2019 legislative session, Thursday, November 15. Bullock was joined by Lt. Governor Mike Cooney (left) and Montana Budget Director Tom Livers (right).
Corin Cates-Carney / MTPR

Governor Steve Bullock released his draft state budget and priorities for the upcoming legislative session Thursday. At the top of the list: Re-authorizing Medicaid expansion.

“There’s too much at stake to not keep Medicaid expansion going in Montana,” Bullock says.

Montana’s Medicaid expansion provides health coverage to just over 96,000 people, and it’s set to expire next June.

Rep. Greg Hertz (R) - HD12. Hertz is the speaker of the House at the Montana Legislature.
Corin Cates-Carney / Montana Public Radio

Montana’s legislative session doesn’t start for another seven weeks, but state lawmakers met at the capitol Wednesday to elect political leaders in the state House and Senate. 

On tap for 2019: Another political face-off between the Republican majority in the House and Senate and Democratic Governor Steve Bullock - particularly over the future of Medicaid expansion in Montana. 

GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) — The state Department of Corrections is cutting 22 positions to trim its budget ahead of the 2019 legislative session.

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