MATT GOURAS Associated Press Writer HELENA
A new study says state and local governments will face challenges as the state's population ages over the next two decades. Montana State University researchers report that by 2030, Medicaid for elderly expected could more than double while education and corrections costs are likely to decrease. Since 1940, Montana's population of residents over 65 has doubled. It will double again by 2030, said MSU professors. "Changing demographics will affect state and local government budgets in a variety of ways," the researchers wrote in the report. The study, called Project 2030, was paid for by several interest groups and is part of an ongoing legislative look at education funding formulas. The state's overall population is expected to rise to just over 1 million people by 2030. But the changing demographics will change the demand for government services. For instance, money spent on K-12 education would fall, while the state's share of Medicaid spending would go up. Overall the researchers predicted expenditures would go down. "What the projections do tell us, however, is that the impacts of more elderly on Medicaid spending and income tax revenues are largely offset by the impacts of fewer young people on education and corrections expenditures, and on residential property tax Revenues," the researchers wrote. But the report said several factors could change the projections. If medical costs continue to increase rapidly, the Medicaid costs and overall cost of the aging population could go up substantially.