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Republican Lawmakers Draft Letter To Gov. Urging Spending Cuts

Estimated FY 2020 Montana budget balances.
Estimated FY 2020 Montana budget balances.

A letter drafted by the Montana speaker of the House asks Gov. Steve Bullock to consider reducing government spending over concerns about declining state revenue.

The draft will be discussed by the legislative Revenue Interim Committee next week as state leaders continue to crunch the numbers of the economic fallout of the novel coronavirus pandemic in Montana.

Speaker Greg Hertz, a Republican from Polson, says cutting state spending now could help budget-balancing efforts in the 2021 legislative session.

"Obviously we’ve seen a crash in many of our revenues.”

Estimated FY 2020 Montana budget balances.
Estimated FY 2020 Montana budget balances.

Hertz says he drafted the letter with the chair of the legislative Revenue Interim Committee, Representative Alan Redfield, a Republican from Livingston.

Revenue Interim Committee Vice Chair Senator Dick Barrett, a Democrat from Missoula, shares concerns for what the shutdown of the economy means for the state revenues. But he says it’s premature to write a letter to the governor calling for specific actions.

"[The letter] is premature and is based simply on the speaker’s speculations and Rep. Redfield’s speculations about what the state of the budget are," Barrett says.

Ahead of lawmakers’ consideration of whether they want to officially send the letter to Bullock, a separate meeting of state financial leaders is scheduled for May 15.

The governor's budget director is expected to provide an update during that meeting along with a monthly financial COVID-19 report from legislative staff.

State fiscal updates show Montana had a relatively high level of reserve cash heading into the pandemic. It’s unclear how those savings will hold up as economic and revenue forecasts change amid the pandemic.

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