The Montana State Capitol in Helena, Mont.

The Montana State Capitol in Helena, Mont.

Thom Bridge,thom.bridge@helenair.com

The special session of the Montana Legislature starts today. Reporters Holly Michels and Erin Loranger will have coverage throughout the session. Follow them on Twitter — @hollykmichels and @eeloranger — for updates.

Don't expect tax increases: The Legislature is coming back to Helena to address a $227 million anticipated shortfall in the state budget. Gov. Steve Bullock's office has proposed plugging the $227 million hole by dividing it into thirds. About $76 million would come from cuts made by the governor to state agencies, another $75 million would come from proposed temporary tax increases and the remaining $76 million would come from a mix of transfers and delayed payments.

But Republicans, who hold a majority in the Legislature, say there is a slim-to-none chance tax-increase proposals will have enough support to clear their caucus, where many campaigned on promises to never increases taxes.

Private prison contract: Friday morning Republicans announced they had enough signatures to expand the scope of a special session set to convene next week, opening it from a narrowly tailored call by Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock.

The wider agenda will include what’s rapidly become a key piece of any deal for Republicans: accepting roughly $30 million from the company that runs a private prison in Shelby in exchange for extending the facility's contract, due to expire in 2019.

School payments: Montana Republicans will likely propose adjusting school payments to even them out across the year, avoiding a spike in payments like the one coming in November.

November's $125 million payment was called into question by budget director Dan Villa in October when he noted the state's general fund had only $87 million. The payment is significantly higher than most school payments, as is a payment in May.

Proposed cuts: Bullock released his proposed list of cuts last week. They affect nearly every state agency. Here's a look at those proposed cuts.

Higher education: The Montana Office of the Commissioner for Higher Education was anticipating a cut as steep as 10 percent, or some $44 million for the biennium, but the governor's proposal spares higher education and calls for a 1.2 percent reduction in the 2018 and 2019 fiscal years.

0
0
0
0
0