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Say thanks for special session

 

November 28, 2017



Montana, and especially I, say thank you to the Montana 2017 special session House and Senate leadership for helping the legislature provide our state with $230 million to replenish the fire fund and provide dollars to shore up the budget problems.

Like many situations, there are differences of opinions, but someone must make the final and best decision at the time. I feel the legislators for the 2017 special session did that.

In times of trouble we all must partake. The largest users of the tax dollars, DPHHS, education and corrections, had to be reduced the most. Low revenues are projected through the biennium. SB 261 sent from the regular 2017 session and signed by the governor, defined reductions to stabilize the budget. However, more reductions, which were needed for stability, were not pursued in a timely manner.

Taxes were not increased. Fire assessment of an extra $13 million (HB 4) died. We in eastern Montana will need to be heads up on further fire assessments. Lodging, rental car and insurance tax increases also died.

HB 2 and HB 6 revised appropriations and directed how revenue transfers must be spent by the governor. To me this is just good financial management as the dollars can only be used where they are needed. Some have commented that these bills made for permanent reduction but that is incorrect. These reductions are only until the next legislative session, but they must be implemented with spending transparency.

HB 3 transferred $40 million to the fire fund. SB 9 provides a path for the governor to use escrow dollars from Shelby prison. $Fifteen million dollars to fire fund and $15 million to backfill the reductions to DPHHS. We must provide for our most needy.

Other contributions to our budget came from: SB 1, temporally suspend state contributions to judges retirement, $2.86 million; SB2, schools block grants and transportation funds, $14.9 million; SB 3, two-month employer holiday contribution to state group employees, $10.4 million; SB4, 3 percent revenue on excess over $1 billion balance in state fund, $29.7 million; SB 5, auction revenues on new liquor licenses, $6.3 million; HB 8 was to furlough state employees, $15 million, but has been vetoed. HB 5 would have let the state auditor start process of risk pool insurance feasibility, because of federal instability, was also vetoed.

Governor reductions valued at $76.6 million were not signed until the special session had started.

The special session of 2017 secured funds, as follows: $77.5 million for this and next year’s fire fund; provided a lawful path for the Governor’s $76.6 million cuts and $76.5 million of additional transfers to cover obligations because of revenue reductions. The Legislature during the special session provided the cash transfer for $161 million of funding obligations to Montana K-12 schools.

We all are involved with dollars from: schools, judges and public employees, businesses, corrections and health services.

While government is a part of society, we must remember that revenues are created by taxpayers. We need to secure a positive objective and pathway to fulfill our own needs centered around accountability.

Early in my own business, sales were expanding in a seasonal pattern, but I was short of cash and incurring high interest charges. Therefore, I had to manage more intensively and secure some cash via long-term debt. However, I was responsible for my debts and had to spend accordingly. View the charts at this site to see why Montana also has seasonal cash problems. http://leg.mt.gov/content/Publications/fiscal/2017-COTW/cotw-cash-Nov-1.pdf

Please contact me at sen.mike.lang@mt.gov with your concerns.

Gratefully,

Montana Senate District 17, Sen. Mike Lang, R-Malta.

 

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