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Bullock: State's Finances In 'Historically Strong Position'

State Budget Director Tom Livers during a conference call May 13, 2020.
Montana Public Affairs Network
State Budget Director Tom Livers during a conference call May 13, 2020.

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock today said the state’s finances are in a “historically strong position” heading further into the COVID-19 pandemic. State officials are still working with incomplete information about the pandemic’s economic impacts.

The governor’s budget office is currently projecting $113 million in state general fund reserves by the end of June next year. Officials say there’s also $92 million available through the Budget Stabilization Reserve.

State Budget Director Tom Livers says prudent decision-making prior to the pandemic paired with federal relief dollars has left Montana with more financial flexibility compared to other states.

“The strong position going in gives us considerable cushion as we start to see the impacts of the pandemic," Livers said.

Livers says next year’s reserve projections are based on information collected by the state’s market analysis firm and other groups across the country, largely on a nationwide basis. He says information was tailored to Montana conditions specifically, including the state’s rapid reopening.

Bullock says state agencies are taking steps to offset revenue reductions, including leaving vacant positions unfilled.

Montana Speaker of the House Greg Hertz helped draft a yet-to-be-sent letter asking Bullock to consider cuts now to ease budget-balancing during the 2021 legislative session, but Bullock rebuffed those calls on a Wednesday press call.

“The notion that what we should do is cut based on what might happen six months from now or a year from now, I think it’s probably misplaced for a number of reasons," Bullock said.

State officials expect drops in revenue. Bullock says the state will have more information on the budget picture after the individual income tax filing deadline passes in July.

“Montana, like every other state, we just have to see how this all continues to unwind before we can put specific dollar amounts to what might be happening a year or more into the future," Bullock said. 

State lawmakers are scheduled to receive a financial report from their staff and the governor’s office Friday.

Kevin Trevellyan is Yellowstone Public Radio’s Report for America statehouse reporter.