Posted: Apr 3, 2013 4:18 PM by Marnee Banks - MTN News
HELENA - The Montana Senate is getting its first crack at balancing the state's budget.
The Senate Finance and Claims Committee began going through each section of House Bill 2 early Wednesday morning.
Over the next few days lawmakers will propose amendments and vote on each section.
MT State Representative Duane Ankney (R-Colstrip) is carrying House Bill 2 and asked the Senate to put its fingerprints on the budget.
"We worked hard on the budget. I think we passed a good budget out of the House," he said.
According to a legislative report, if you take into account all the actions of the legislature so far, lawmakers are proposing to spend $180 million more than the state will take in. If all the spending and tax bills that are still alive pass, the ending fund balance will dwindle down to $60 million by the end of the next budget cycle.
Governor Steve Bullock's (D) budget director Dan Villa says there are a few things that the governor hopes the Senate will do.
First, he wants the legislature to leave this session with $300 million in the bank; second, he wants lawmakers to address the state's long term liabilities like the pension system. Villa says the $180 million imbalance needs to be addressed.
However, he says that problem is not in House Bill 2, but instead in many of the other bills which propose tax cuts.
"I would caution you that you do not need to rip all of the money, to fix this structural imbalance, out of House Bill 2. Chairman Ankney has done a commendable job in sending you a piece of legislation which is very close to what Governor Bullock has laid out," he said.
The committee is expected to vote on the budget next week and then it will head to the Senate floor.