State Agencies Request $413 Million Funding Increase

By Beacon Staff

HELENA – State agencies have submitted requests to hire 245 new employees and to raise their general fund spending by $413 million over the next two years.

The wish-lists submitted to the governor’s budget office represent the first stage in a lengthy budget process that ends next spring, when the 2009 Legislature will pass a budget for the next two years.

“It’s a first draft,” said Budget Director David Ewer.

The requests are all but certain to be trimmed back by Ewer and his staff as Gov. Brian Schweitzer sets his general budget priorities for the next two years. General fund money comes from state income, corporate and other taxes.

Ewer estimates state revenues will grow by 3 percent to 3.5 percent in each of the next two years, down considerably from the double-digit growth rates in fiscal 2005 and 2006.

“We’ve said publicly and to our directors, the next (legislative) session will feel like a belt-tightening session,” Ewer said Monday. “The challenge is that the costs are going to be such that much of the governor’s budget is going to have to cover the increased costs of the goods and services we deliver, such as our share of public education, public health and public safety.”

Schweitzer is required to submit his proposed budget by Nov. 15.

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