As the 2017 legislature session kicks off tomorrow in Helena, the prospect of declining revenue and a leaner budget looms over everything.
From the Helena IR:
After leaving a $300 million rainy day fund at the end of the 2015 Legislature, the state was looking at a roughly $225 million hole if it didn’t make adjustments. The $4.7 billion budget proposed by Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock was drafted to deal with declining oil, gas and coal revenues as well as slowed growth in income and property tax collections. It contains $110 million in spending cuts and $123 million in new taxes.
‘Priority one, two and three this session, unfortunately, is the budget,’ Speaker of the House Austin Knudsen, R-Culbertson, said Friday. ‘In order to get necessary government funded and fund just existing programs we’re going to have to be looking in the couch cushions pretty hard for loose change this session.’
Nevertheless, Montana Democrats, in typical big-government fashion, remain hellbent on increasing spending.
Query: if revenues are down, what is the more measured legislative response: to heed the advice of Speaker Knudsen, and look for common-sense belt-tightening, or to raise taxes and grow government largesse? Moreover, with respect to Rep. Miller’s nearly two-year old tweet, should Democrats entertain a compromise with the majority party, or would it be better public policy to hector an overwhelming spate of popularly elected Republicans for the sake of “the kids?”