Jan 9, 2013 7:53 PM by Marnee Banks - MTN News
HELENA - Republican legislators in charge of drafting Montana's budget have differing views on Governor Steve Bullock's (D- MT) proposal.
The Governor's Budget Director Dan Villa says Bullock's budget will create jobs by investing in education and cutting taxes for Montana businesses.
"The Governor wishes we would address long term liabilities and fund essential services before we begin discussions of additional tax expenditures or new programs," Villa said in a presentation to both the House Appropriations and Senate Finance committees.
Villa says Bullock's funding requests can be lumped into three categories: jobs, education and efficiency in government.
Both committees are tasked with doing the leg work on drafting the budget for the next two years.
The process starts in the House as lawmakers go through the budget line by line.
Appropriations Chairman Representative Duane Ankney (R - Colstrip) says Bullock's budget is a good starting point but the House will be using Montana's 2012 budget as the baseline and any additional increases will have to be weighed individually on its merits.
"I don't see a lot of politics in [Bullock's budget]. There will be somethings that are moved, changed, taken out, put back in. It's the beginning of the process. I think that's what we have to focus on. This is the beginning of the process," Ankney explains. "This ain't the worst one I ever seen."
After the House passes a budget it's sent to the Senate. Republicans on the Senate Finance committee have some concerns.
Senator Dave Lewis (R - Helena) says Bullock's budget spends a lot more money than he had hoped for.
"I just looked at the bottom line and we are talking about a $500 million, half a billion dollar increase from last biennium to this biennium. That's about 14%," Lewis explained. "I think that's going to be a big bite for the Montana taxpayers to swallow. I think we are going to have to look at it very carefully, and go through all the details."
According to a Legislative Fiscal Division report, the $500 million Lewis refers to includes $100 million in property tax rebates and $10 million in tax cuts for businesses.
Bullock's office points out it also includes $60 million to fix the state's pension system & $80 million for the state pay plan.
Here is a list of other key proposals included in Bullock's budget:
Jobs and Opportunity by Building Schools Bill: $9.9 million
Build a new Missoula College
Renovate Romney Hall at MSU
Build a new Science and IT building at MSU - Billings
Build a new Natural Resources Research Facility at Montana Tech
Build a new Automotive Technology Center at MSU - Northern
Renovate Main Hall at U of M Western
Pay for maintenance at Great Falls College
Construct a new Joint Operations Center in Butte
Build a new Montana Historical Society in Helena
Access Health Montana: $5.1 million
Expand Medicaid to Montanans living at 138% of poverty
Increase provider rates by 2% for medical professionals serving Medicaid patients
Invest $6 million in upgraded technology for K-12 schools
Freeze tuition for Montana college students
Invest $2 million in early childhood education
Natural Resources Development Impacts: $15 million
Create a grant program for cities impacted by oil and gas development