HELENA, Mont. (AP) — The Latest on Montana’ special session to address the state’s budget shortfall (all times local):
A joint legislative committee heard plenty of opposition to a proposed bill that would raise a state tax on lodging and rental cars to help offset an expected $227 million budget deficit.
Department of Revenue Director Mike Kadas said Monday the temporary tax was considered because it would have minimal effect on Montanans and would be easy to implement.
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Opponents argued Monday it wasn’t fair to target their businesses for tax increases.
Supporters said doubling the lodging tax to 6 percent and increasing the car rental tax from 4 percent to 10 percent to help pay for Montana’s unexpected fire season would target mostly tourists and prevent other cuts that would harm people in need of home health care and other services.
Some businesses suggested they could support a temporary 1 percent increase.
A legislative committee heard little opposition to bills that would reduce state spending by just over $28 million.
One bill would cancel nearly $15 million in block grants to schools between January and mid-2019.
Another would save $10.4 million by suspending payments into the fiscally healthy employee health care plan for two months.
A third would save $2.8 million by suspending state payments to into the over-funded judges’ retirement plan for 18 months starting in January.
Education groups reluctantly supported the cuts, saying they realize education funding needs to do its part to help with the state’s projected $227 million budget shortfall.
The chairwoman of Montana’s House Appropriations Committee is sponsoring a bill to transfer state agency money to the general fund to help balance the state budget in the face of a $227 million deficit.
Republican Nancy Ballance of Hamilton spoke Monday in favor of transferring nearly $21 million from various state agencies into the general fund.
The largest amounts are $8.4 million from school facilities and technology, $8 million in highway money and $2 million from a capitol complex maintenance fund.
Lawmakers did not immediately vote on the measure.
A proposal to temporarily charge a fee for state management of Montana’s workers’ compensation fund drew strong opposition as lawmakers began a special session to address a $227 million budget shortfall.
The 3 percent management fee on Montana State Fund assets above $1 billion would raise an estimated $30 million.
Lee Newspapers of Montana reports that deputy insurance commissioner Bob Biskupiak argued Monday the money came from policyholders and should remain with them.
A state fund official says it’s receiving about 2.6 percent return on its investments, so the fee would cost the plan money.
Great Falls Republican Sen. Ed Buttrey sponsored the measure. He and other supporters say the temporary fee is better than cutting services to vulnerable citizens.
A joint committee did not vote on the bill.