Pieces of puzzle still missing, session’s end up in the air

Capitol

Stan Parker

Legislators were still in the state Capitol late Wednesday, with the possibility of an imminent end to the session looming.

HELENA—It was unclear Wednesday night when Montana’s special legislative would end.

By nearly 8 p.m., several pieces of the puzzles necessary to raise the money needed to bring the session to a close remained up in the air.

One piece is Senate Bill 4, by Sen. Ed Buttrey, R-Great Falls, to charge the workers’ compensation State Fund a temporary management fee for investing money with the state Board of Investments. This would raise $30 million over two years.

The House rejected the bill 49-51, but later voted 65-35 to reconsider it later Wednesday.

The House Appropriations Committee also has a hearing scheduled on HB6, by Rep. Nancy Ballance, R-Hamilton, on a bill to transfer at least $75 million from various programs’ funds to help deal with a $227 million general-fund deficit.

Some legislators were confident that the special session would adjourn later Wednesday night, while others were less optimistic as the night wore on.

Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock’s office had no immediate comment on whether the bills still in play were acceptable.

Bullock called the session to address the general fund budget and revenue deficit.  State tax collections are coming in far lower than projected by the Legislature earlier this year. In addition, the state wildfire suppression fund was drained after the worst firefighting season in state history.

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