Posted: Nov 15, 2012 10:25 PM by Marnee Banks (email@example.com)
Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer (D) has less than two months left in office but by law he still has to release a budget for the next two years.
"They say, it's not about the money. The one thing you know absolutely for sure in politics is that it's always about the money," Schweitzer said in a press conference on Thursday. "Your priorities are based on money."
Schweitzer's budget includes nearly $5 billion in revenue, a 4% increase over the last two year period and it spends just over $4 billion, a 3% increase over the last budget cycle.
And finally Schweitzer's landmark, the budget leaves a healthy surplus of $410 million dollars in the bank.
He says the majority of his budget is spent educating, medicating and incarcerating. In total these services eat up 88% of the total state budget.
"There is probably no more important function in state government than providing a quality education to the next generation," Schweitzer says about his plan to freeze college tuition.
In addition to regular General Fun spending, he is proposing to spend $60 million fixing the state's pension system, and $5 million expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.
He also plans on giving state workers a raise and paying for the bonding bill which builds a new Historical Society and several new college buildings.
Now, Governor Elect Steve Bullock (D) has just a few weeks to look at the budget and propose his own.
Bullock's Spokesperson Kevin O'Brien says Bullock supports freezing college tuition, raises for state workers, the bonding bill, and providing property tax rebates to homeowners.
"Steve is going to be a fiscally responsible manager of our state's resources, make sure that we are creating jobs, providing tax rebates and tax relief when we can, while investing in our priorities," O'Brien says.
The Governor's budget is used as a starting point for the Legislature. Beginning in January, lawmakers will look at it, propose changes and then ultimately they are the ones who send a budget to the Governor's desk for signature.
Republicans leaders in the Legislature say they still need time to look at Schweitzer's budget, but all options are on the table and they look forward to working with Bullock to develop a budget that's workable for both parties.