Montana

Republicans aim to make governor's cuts permanent

End of special session uncertain

HELENA, Mont. - Republican lawmakers are proposing bills that would make Gov. Steve Bullock's $76.6 million in cuts permanent and give lawmakers control over how any additional money would be spent should the state's finances improve.

Republicans - who hold the majority in Montana's Legislature - expanded the special session Tuesday to take up bills that would authorize state employee furloughs, repeal some individual and corporate income tax credits and require the Montana State Fund to pay premium taxes on workers' compensation policies.

Another bill would kill legislation authorizing millions of dollars of transfers into the general fund if the governor vetoes the conditions placed on his cuts.

The state is facing a $227 million budget deficit.

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3:20 p.m.

A Republican state Senator proposed expanding the special legislative session to prohibit the state health department from implementing an administrative rule that would use the word "gender" instead of "sex" on birth certificates.

Sen. Al Olszewski argued Tuesday that adding a new gender called "intersex condition" would require millions of dollars in spending to update state computers to reflect the change. He says the agency was wrong in finding it would not cost any money to implement the rule.

The Department of Public Health and Human Services said the rule would allow gender to be determined by a person's own internal sense of gender. It also created rules to make it easier for people to change their gender on their birth certificates.

The ACLU of Montana argued prohibiting the rule is an attack on the dignity of transgendered residents.

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1:10 p.m.

Gov. Steve Bullock enacted $76 million in budget cuts, one third of his plan to deal with a projected $227 million budget deficit.

The move Tuesday afternoon came just hours after House Speaker Austin Knudsen argued Bullock hadn't made any cuts and shortly after lawmakers began a special session.

Bullock is asking lawmakers to approve some budget transfers and temporary tax increases, while Republicans are looking for additional transfers and cuts. Options they've suggested include state employee furloughs and closing the state employee health care clinics.

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12:50 p.m.

Montana lawmakers began a special session to deal with a projected $227 million budget deficit as Republicans and Democrats remained at loggerheads over how to proceed.

Before both Houses met Tuesday, Democrats argued against making painful budget cuts that would hurt vulnerable residents.

Republicans said they were not going to balance the budget on the backs of taxpayers and would look for other sources of revenue or other cuts.

Montana's budget shortfall is due to revenues coming in lower than estimates adopted by the 2017 Legislature as well as a damaging and expensive fire season.

Gov. Steve Bullock has proposed making up for the deficit with a mix of cuts, budget transfers and temporary tax increases.

Republicans sought to expand the scope of the session to consider other ideas.


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