Bullock signs ABLE Act sponsored by Sen. Thomas

Gov. Steve Bullock does a ceremonial signing of Senate Bill 399, by Sen. Fred Thomas, R-Stevensville, on his left. Sen. Mary Caferro, D-Helena, is on his right.  Supporters of the new law, Montanans Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) are behind them.  

HELENA – A new state law will allow Montanans to make tax-deductible donations of up to $3,000 a year to a new savings account set up by or for a disabled person.

Gov. Steve Bullock had a ceremonial bill signing Thursday for Senate Bill 399, known as the Montana Achieving a Better Life Experience or ABLE. He had officially signed it into law on Tuesday.

Its sponsor, Sen. Fred Thomas, R-Stevensville, thanked Bullock for signing the bill into law and thanked the people, many with disabled children, who helped work on its passage. He thanked Sen. Mary Caferro, D-Helena, for her help.

“It makes us proud to have been a part of the process and just to get it done for you,” Thomas told the audience.

Bullock congratulated the crowd for helping pass the bill.

A federal law was passed last December and Montana is the 10th state to pass an ABLE law.

Here’s how it works, Thomas said.

The new law allows disabled individuals, or someone on their behalf, to set up ABLE savings accounts at banks to help cover any current or future expenses associated with that person’s disabilities. Anyone, not just relatives, can make donations to someone’s ABLE account.

Having ABLE savings accounts won’t jeopardize ABLE savings account holders’ public benefits, such as disability or Medicaid or Medicare payments. Disabled people previously couldn’t keep extra money in savings accounts without risking the loss of federal benefits.

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“You can save money, you can use it for these things and not jeopardize your public benefits,” Thomas said.

The final version of SB399 passed the Senate, 49-1, and the House, 100-0.

Its fiscal note estimates the legislation will cost the state treasury about $240,000 over four years, including $120,000 in the fourth year, in lost tax revenues.

The state Department of Public Health and Human Services will be drafting the rules for the new program.

An individual can donate up to $3,000 in tax-deductible contributions annually to someone’s ABLE account.

An ABLE account set up for an individual can accumulate up to $14,000 annually in donations.

An ABLE savings account can accumulate a maximum of $100,000 in donations.

“It’s a critical thing,” Thomas said, adding that he was “just so honored” to sponsor the bill.