Representative Matt Rosendale checked in with a legislative update from week 9 of the legislative session.
Rosendale’s week kicked off with a presentation from the Legislative Fiscal Division (LFD). Rosendale commented on the state finances saying “While I agree with the Governor that the economy in Montana is starting to improve, according to the Legislative Fiscal Division, we are still spending drastically more than we are bringing in. According to the LFD, including the new revenue forecast, the Governor’s budget proposal still spends $190 million more over the next Biennium than it brings in. The Governor is able to declare it “balanced” by ignoring the shortfalls in the states pension system and taking funds from a multitude of accounts including the oil and gas revenue from Eastern Montana, the Coal Trust Fund, the Coal Bed Methane Gas Mitigation Fund, and the state’s reserve revenue in the bank. And while that would get us through for the balance of his administration, what are the rest of us to do after that? “
Rosendale also noted concerns over the state pension system. He elaborated “This year alone LFD reports that the system will pay nearly $36 Million more in benefits than it generates. Who will provide that $36 Million, all taxpayers or those in receipt of the benefit? The total unfunded liabilities are somewhere near $3 Billion. That is additional funds that Montana taxpayers are obligated to provide to the system.”
Rosendale said that difficult decisions still need to be made and he is prepared to make them. He said that while 5% reduction plans are required by all state agencies he lacks confidence in them because “Quite frankly, it has been in place long enough for most agencies to develop strategies to compensate for the reductions.”
Some of those decisions made include:
-The elimination of the Tobacco Prevention state program funded with “special funds”. These funds were redirected to continue funding for higher than estimated enrollment in FY 2011 for Healthy Montana Kids (CHIP).
-Reduced the eligibility for Big Sky Rx to 135% of Federal Poverty level from 200% of Federal Poverty level.
-Reduced State Special funds supporting Montana Veterans Home in Columbia Falls to the level anticipated to be needed by a private provider (like Glendive has) and encouraged DPHHS to move to private contract instead of a state run facility. The Glendive facility operates at roughly 20% of the cost of Columbia Falls.
-Provided increased funding for community chemical dependency treatment by downsizing the state facility in Butte.
-Eliminated funding for the Energy Promotion Division in the Department of Commerce.
-For K-12 education Did not fund present-law inflationary increases in entitlements, school foods, and block grants.
Finally, Rosendale noted that “Should revenue collections prove to be greater than those projected by LFD, those programs which serve the most vulnerable among us will receive additional funding first.”
Rosendale urges everyone who can to review the Charts of the Week provided by the Legislative Fiscal Division at www.leg.mt.gov/css/fiscal and explained that they provide the hard facts that he and the other legislators are using to prepare a budget.
Despite the difficult decisions, Rosendale said he is extremely confident and optimistic that the work they are doing this session will have far reaching positive impacts on Montana and its citizens.
If you have questions or concerns contact Representativee Rosendale at 406-444-4800 or email at [email protected]