Bullock, GOP agree on budget fix, special session over

Adjourn

Stan Parker

The special session of the Montana Legislature, meeting in the Capitol, adjourned early Thursday.

Editor’s note: This story has been superseded by a later, expanded story, which you can read by clicking here.

HELENA — The Montana House and Senate adjourned the special legislative session early Thursday after Republican leaders and Gov. Steve Bullock agreed on a plan to fill the state budget and revenue gap with $231 million in cuts, transfers and other funds.

The total includes $32 million that CoreCivic has offered the state in exchange for renewing its 10-year contract with the company to operate the 664-bed private prison in Shelby.

Bullock called the special session to come up with $227 million to make up for a budget and revenue shortfall.  He proposed coming up with one-third by budget cuts, one-third by fund transfers and one-third by tax increases.

Here’s what the Republicans, who control both the House and Senate pieced together:

♦ $75 million in Bullock’s budget cuts.

♦ $94 million in budget transfers, legislative cuts, delays and other savings.

♦ $30 million from a temporary, new fee charged to the workers’ compensation State Fund, which has the Board of Investments invest the money.  That bill, originally rejected in the House, was revived and passed before adjournment.

♦ $32 million to renew the private prison contract.

After the session adjourned, Bullock issued this statement:

“Tonight we reached a reasonable and responsible compromise to balance our budget and pay for Montana’s record fire season. While I’m disappointed we were not able to reach a full agreement, I would be remiss not to acknowledge all the progress made to minimize the impacts of severe budget cuts on the most vulnerable among us.

“We’ve ensured most seniors will still be able to access the prescription drugs they need. We’ve assured most young kids with autism will continue to receive services helping them make developmental gains. We’ve prevented steep tuition increases.

“We’ve prevented many job losses. We’ve protected public safety and prevented strains on local sheriffs’ offices. We’ve prevented financial duress on rural hospitals.

“These aren’t just numbers on a balance sheet, these are real people. These are our friends, our families and our neighbors — our children, our grandchildren, our parents and grandparents. While we still have work to do, tonight Montanans can be pleased.”

Watch Last Best News later this morning for more details on the budget fixes and an in-depth look at this week’s special session.

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