HELENA — 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.
Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock enacted $76 million in budget cuts, dispatching one third of his plan that mixes cuts, budget transfers and temporary tax increases..
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.
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.
Republicans sought to expand the scope of the session to consider other ideas.