A Special Session was called to address Montana’s $227 million budget shortfall, largely a result of the most expensive state fire year in Montana’s history. Bills were passed to address the shortfall. Governor Steve Bullock allowed most of the dozen or so bills to become law.
More controversial bills include:
- Placing a fee on Montana State Fund investments to raise roughly $30 million over two years. The State Fund is currently challenging that proposal in court.
- The Governor vetoed a bill that would have furloughed some state employee to allocate $15 million to other uses, and a bill related to high-risk insurance pools.
- Still uncertain is a bill that would save $30 million by extending contracts with a private prison.
Other cost shifting includes bills temporarily suspending contributions to the judges’ retirement system and to state employee health care plans.
State Agencies reduced their funding to satisfy the budget shortfall. The largest reductions were to Health and Human Services ($110,306,836.00 total reduction in funding). Reductions include case management services including addictive and mental disorders, Medicaid benefits, Senior and long term care benefits. The largest impact would be to the Prospective Payment System for both inpatient and outpatient Medicaid and Medicare hospital services.
SB9 Budget stabilization reserve funds were used. State income and expenses are a dynamic system always leaving some unknowns. If earnings turn out to be high enough to cover expenses, excess revenue may replace cuts made.
A memo from Mike Kadas, Director of the Montana Dept of Revenue, addresses possible impacts from Federal Tax Reform now under consideration. Montana could lose over $122 million in Federal payments in 2018 and again in 2019.
Helena legislative Representative, Mary Ann Dunwell commented in a Letter to the Editor that legislative actions taken include permanently codifying reductions in programs that help people rather than raising taxes on those who could best afford the increase.
More detailed information is available at http://leg.mt.gov