YPRnews

Yesterday Republicans pushed a massive tax overhaul through the U.S. House, now a similar plan will be debated in the Senate. Like the House measure, it would slash the corporate tax rate and reduce personal income tax rates for many.

But Montana’s Democratic Senator, Jon Tester, isn’t a fan.

Jackie Yamanaka

The fact Montana lawmakers were going into this week's special legislative session with no pre-negotiated "deal" in place gave many at the Capitol heartburn. The session wrapped up shortly after 1 a.m. Thursday morning. Governor Steve Bullock called legislators back to the Capitol to help address a projected $227 million dollar budget shortfall and backfill the state's depleted wildfire fighting fund. 

Jackie Yamanaka

The gavel banged down shortly after 1 o’clock this morning to bring the special legislative session to a close after lawmakers passed a series of bills to address Montana's projected $227 million budget shortfall.

Jackie Yamanaka

The Republican controlled Montana Legislature voted to make permanent nearly $77 million in budget cuts the governor intended to be temporary. Both the House and Senate gave final approval to House Bill 2 and sent the measure on to the governor.

In the meantime, work continues on companion bills. This includes Senate Bill 9 which includes the GOP's intent to use the $30 million offered from CoreCivic, the company that runs the private prison in Shelby, to help offset the projected $227 million dollar budget deficit.

The transportation block grants the state of Montana pays to school districts is one of the sources Governor Steve Bullock is considering removing to help fill the state’s budget shortfall. Eliminating the grants in 2019 would save the state nearly $12 million.

But not all the school districts have a reserve fund to fall back on, and others that do can’t sustain the loss over an extended period of time.

Jackie Yamanaka

Montana lawmakers are considering a bill that would allow the state to accept $30 million from CoreCivic, the company that runs the private prison that houses some of the state's inmates. The company has offered to give the state that money in exchange for another 10 year contract to run the Shelby facility. The bill's sponsor says if Governor Steve Bullock accepts that offer then $15 m of that money would go into the wildfire fund and the rest could be used to soften cuts to state agency budgets.  Senate Bill 9 is part of the Republican majority's plan during the special legislative session to address the projected $227 m budget shortfall.

U.S. Senate Committee On Energy And Natural Resources

During a U.S. Senate hearing Tuesday, the head of Puerto Rico’s electric power authority, or PREPA, justified signing a controversial, $300 million contract with a small energy company in Montana. 

https://goo.gl/xhZVWE

The special session of the Montana Legislature got underway with lawmakers still at odds with the Bullock Administration on how to deal with the projected $227 million budget shortfall. One sticking point remains over a proposal to accept $30 million in exchange for extending the contract for a private prison in Shelby another 10 years should be part of the mix. 

Jackie Yamanaka

Montana Legislators are considering a temporary increase in lodging and car rental taxes to preserve some government services slated to be cut to address Montana’s projected $227 million budget shortfall. It's part of a 3-prong approach sought by Governor Steve Bullock that also includes budget cuts and fund transfers during the special Legislative Session that officially convenes Tuesday.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this article misstated how much funding could be cut for Montana's schools and universities. It was $4.5 million, not $45 million.

As the Montana legislature faces down a $227 million dollar budget shortfall, the state’s university system could see some steep budget cuts.

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