Legislative Update: Thursday, March 9

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Eric Feaver

Bill would refund taxpayers if enrollment projections miss the mark

By Freddy Monares

When schools overestimate the number of students in their district, Montana property taxpayers end up eating that cost.

House Bill 390 would return the excess money collected back to taxpayers the following year. Eric Feaver, president of the MEA-MFT teachers union, spoke in favor of the bill.

“What it says about overestimating is important, and we certainly don’t want people in any way to think that school districts are trying to scam the system and this addresses that,” Feaver said.

The bill also aims to change a $1 million appropriation for school technology grants to be used as matching funds for a federal program to provide schools with internet access. Bob Vogel, the lobbyist for the Montana School Boards Association, likes that part of the bill.

“It’s going to leverage those dollars into probably up to $20 million in broadband access,” Vogel said.

The House Education Committee will hear first testimony on the bill Friday.

Freddy Monares is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association and the Greater Montana Foundation.

 

Bullock works about funding for essential services

By Cole Grant

Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock says his biggest concern with the Legislature’s proposed budget is the lack of funding for essential services.

“That’s everything from senior and long-term care, to how they’re funding higher education, to what had been done with child protective services,” he said.

The state is facing a tight budget this session. In the House Appropriations Committee—where Republicans are in the majority, as they are in the House and Senate—both parties are trying to find a middle ground.

Thursday morning, the committee took action on amendments to aspects of House Bill 2, the main budget bill.

Rep. Brad Tschida, R-Missoula, said he realizes that some programs, like a camp for at-risk youth, “do need and deserve money, but I think at this point and time we have to see where the budget comes in before we can go ahead and honor a commitment of this nature.”

The committee will continue hearing amendments on the bill through Friday.

Cole Grant is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association and the Greater Montana Foundation.

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