HELENA — The Montana Legislature will not hold a special session this month to consider using the state’s budget surplus for tax rebates, after a majority of lawmakers failed to endorse the idea.
On Thursday, Montana Secretary of State Christi Jacobsen’s office released the results of a poll, asking all 150 legislators whether they wanted to call a special session for Sept. 29. While 53 lawmakers approved the proposal, with 52 voting against it, it still fell short of the 76 votes required.
All 53 lawmakers who voted in favor of a special session were Republicans. 23 Republicans and 29 Democrats opposed it. The remaining 45 lawmakers – 22 Republicans and 23 Democrats – didn’t return their ballots by the deadline, Wednesday at 5 p.m.
Ten Republican lawmakers, including House Majority Leader Sue Vinton, R-Billings, and Senate Majority Leader Cary Smith, R-Billings, signed a letter last month, requesting the Secretary of State’s Office conduct a special session poll. They said the state’s budget surplus – expected to exceed $1 billion or even $2 billion by next year’s regular legislative session – showed Montana taxpayers had “overpaid” the state. They argued the state should return some of that money immediately so struggling families wouldn’t have to wait until next year for assistance.
The lawmakers were proposing property tax rebates of up to $1,000 for homeowners’ primary residences; income tax rebates of up to $1,250 for individuals and $2,500 for couples filing jointly; and a $100 million payment to reduce Montana’s bonded debt.
This was the second time this year that lawmakers rejected a possible special session. In April, 44 legislators – all Republicans – backed a proposal to call one to set up a special legislative committee on election security.