Posted: Apr 22, 2013 7:49 PM by Marnee Banks - MTN News
Updated: Apr 22, 2013 7:50 PM
The State of Montana began the 2013 legislative session with $450 million in the bank.
Now, entering this final week, legislative staff is predicting that the state will end the next budget cycle with $140 million left.
Up until now, the Legislature hasn't passed any significant tax relief bills and Senate Majority Leader Art Wittich says this is a big problem.
Wittich (R-Bozeman) said, "It's extremely disappointing that we have spent 85 days spending millions of dollars and not providing any relief to the Montanans who paid into our checkbook."
It looks like the Legislature will reach a compromise in the finals days on lowering the business equipment tax; it's unclear exactly what the tax rate will be and who will benefit, but lawmakers are hashing out the details.
Sen. Bruce Tutvedt (R-Kalispell) said, "We need to get tax relief to our mid-size businesses that are the job providers and the economic engines of the economy."
It also appears as if Montana's income tax code will receive a major overhaul.
However, Wittich thinks the Legislature should have done more; he noted that he had a bill which would have given every Montanan a 5% one- time tax cut, but added that there are lawmakers who say the state can't afford it: "I think it's shameful. I have a feeling I know what will happen to this bill, and maybe in future legislators we can do better for the taxpayers of Montana."
He continued, "There are people here that would rather spend than provide tax relief. They think the money that taxpayers pay is their money, it's government's money, instead of the taxpayer's money.
Tutvedt said, "You always wish for more, but sometimes you realistically you have to pay your bills. I think what we've done is a very prudent job of funding the state's needs and taking care of our long term liabilities so we don't have tax increases into the future.
Tutvedt says the Legislature had big financial obligations like the pension system, the state pay plan, and education funding, so all in all, he is happy with the balance.
Lawmakers are scheduled to adjourn on Saturday, April 27, but it looks like they might get out early if they can resolve a few last minute issues.