Budget

Sen. Steve Daines press office

U.S. Senator Steve Daines is among a group of just over a dozen of Republican colleagues asking their Majority leader to continue working through the traditional August recess. Democratic U.S. Senator Jon Tester said he also didn't have a problem staying in August.

Nate Hegyi / YPR

When low-income people need help getting food stamps, Medicaid and other benefits, they often go to Montana’s public assistance offices. But at the end of this month, more than half of these offices will permanently close because of state budget cuts. This includes one in Livingston, which serves more than 300 people every month.

Proposed budget cuts could make the overcrowding at Montana’s jails and prisons worse. Groups supporting local law enforcement warned lawmakers of potential consequences of the coming cuts during the Law and Justice Interim Committee this afternoon.

Montana’s budget to entice tourists to the state is about to take a multimillion dollar hit. Next week, budget reductions triggered by lower than expected state revenue will make Montana less competitive, officials say.

Last year, tourists spent about $3.5 billion in Montana, according to the University of Montana’s Institute for Tourism and Recreation.

The money set aside to fight wildfires in Montana is rapidly dwindling as portions of the state are in extreme drought conditions. But John Tubbs, Director of the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, says there’s more money available to keep up the firefighting efforts, in other pockets of state government.

“We don’t run out,” Tubbs says.

Funding for a Native American language preservation program could get cut next month if revenues don’t increase as the state fiscal year comes to an end. 

The State-Tribal Relations Interim Committee was briefed by legislative staff Thursday that budget cuts will be triggered in mid-August.

Amy Carlson, a Legislative Fiscal Analyst, says state revenues have continued falling below projections since lawmakers passed the state budget in April.

“Yes, we believe we will be hitting triggers," Carlson said, "certainly the most recent revenues would tell you that.”

State revenues have again fallen short of lawmakers’ expectations and could trigger funding cuts across state agencies in the coming months.

President Trump's fiscal plan released on Tuesday claims to balance the budget deficit while cutting funding for safety net programs like food stamps and increasing defense spending. Read more about budget' aims.

At the end of a legislative session defined by the state having less money than initially projected, lawmakers Wednesday negotiated a new budgeting system designed to protect the state against future revenue shortfalls. 

With state revenues down from slumping markets for oil, gas, coal and agricultural products, lawmakers spent most this session arguing over spending priorities in the state budget.

The state’s main budget bill is one vote away from going to the governor’s desk. Majorities in both the House and Senate have now agreed on it and some of its companion spending bills.

For the first time in recent memory, the state's main budget bill won't go to a joint House-Senate conference committee to hammer out any more deals. 

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