Bullock’s surprise: He’s already making budget cuts

House

Stan Parker

Before the special session got officially underway, desks in the House Chamber were provided with fresh legal pads and pens.

HELENA—Shortly after the Montana House convened in special session on Tuesday, Gov. Steve Bullock, in a surprise announcement, said he was immediately implementing $76.6 million in general-fund budget cuts.

Bullock originally hadn’t planned to make the budget cuts until after the special session adjourned.

However, the leaders of the Republican-controlled House and Senate added Bullock’s budget cuts to their expansion of the governor’s original call.  Some GOP leaders raised doubts over whether Bullock would actually make the cuts.  The governor surprised them Tuesday by doing just that.

“In order to streamline the work of the Legislature and in response to questions raised about my intent to implement cuts, pursuant to my authority under 17-7-140 MCA (Montana Code Annotated), I hereby order immediate implementation of my proposed spending reductions,” Bullock wrote House Speaker Austin Knudsen, R-Culbertson.

“These are cuts I prefer not to make and I am open to proposals from the Legislature to fund the essential services in their entirety per House Bill 2 as passed in regular session.”

Bullock said he has proposed a variety of other bills to mitigate the cuts to critical services that Montanans rely on.

State government faces a projected $227 million budget and revenue deficit because revenue lagged from the projections earlier this year and the state faced record fire suppression costs that drained the fund,

To close the gap, Bullock proposed $76.6 million in budget cuts he has the authority to make, $75.5 million in fund transfers and about $75 million in tax increases.

The largest share of the governor’s general fund cuts are to the Department of Public Health and Human Services and totals $49.2 million. Regardless of Bullock’s cuts, Republican legislators are still amending House Bill 2, the traditional state budget  bill.

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