MT Revenue Trending Higher Than Governor Expected, Cuts May be Filled
Today, the Montana Legislative Fiscal division released its fifth of six general fund revenue estimates as the state nears the end of the fiscal year (see above). Curiously, all the current estimates are above where Governor Bullock’s office predicted they would be late last year (dotted "executive" Line). Those dire forecasts are what led to the special legislative session, a session that House Appropriations Chair Nancy Balance says was clearly unnecessary.
“We believed it was unnecessary,” Ballance said. “We believed all along that the revenue was going to come back up and at the very least it was premature. If the governor had waited another couple of months, he would have seen these revenue numbers starting to come back up and some indications that maybe things were going to be fine.”
The session triggered state cuts though, and those cuts have made a big impact on services in Montana, most notably in areas like direct care for those with special needs. Ballance says that if revenues come in as they appear to be, those cuts may be filled-in a few months.
“We actually anticipated that the revenue was going to be back up so in Senate bill 9, during the Special session, we put some very specific rules in place to take the additional revenue, if it was above a certain amount, and put it right back in to the programs from which it was taken,” Ballance said. “That will trigger as soon as the revenue is audited and verified, which would be August.”
Charts released this week compares four different projection models which were made back before the special session: three of which predicted state revenues to pull in a little more than $2,400 million, very close to what the new data indicates is coming in. The Executive branch predicted revenues to be about $100 million below that, an estimate that, in hindsight, appears to have been way off the mark.