Helena – Fresh off a narrow re-election victory Governor Steve Bullock is laying out his priorities for the 2017 legislative session. Despite the gains made by Republicans on Election Day Mr. Bullock remains confident that he can secure legislative victories.
Mr. Bullock told Lee Enterprises, “I don’t anticipate much different dynamics than we’ve seen in the past.”
Mr. Bullock has said that infrastructure is his top priority, his build Montana Plan includes $292 million in new spending, some of which would go to infrastructure but much of the spending would be devoted to earmarks for pet projects.
Included in the plan:
– $25 Million to renovate MSU-Bozeman’s Romney Hall
– $19 Million to build a new Historical Museum in Helena
– $17 Million to build a Veteran’s home in Butte
The plan would be paid for increasing state debt in the form of bonding and using cash.
Republicans blocked Mr. Bullocks attempts to fund these same projects during the 2015 session. Legislative leaders have previously said they are opposed to funding anything beyond “essential infrastructure”, like water and sewer projects, and given the state’s bleak economic outlook the money for pet projects is not available.
In Mr. Bullock’s recently released budget he also calls from several new taxes to help compensate for increased spending. Montana’s constitution requires the state budget to balance.
Included in the plan:
– raising the top rate of state income tax from 6.9 percent to 7.9 percent.
– 6 percent sales tax on medical marijuana
– Expanding Montana’s tobacco sales tax to include non-tobacco products such as the liquids used in electronic cigarettes
Bullock defended the medical marijuana sales tax proposal to Lee Enterprises saying “it can be a fair tax.” Many critics argue Mr. Bullock’s proposal can be a slippery slope to taxing all forms of medication.
During the 2016 campaign, Mr. Bullock repeatedly criticized his Republican opponent Greg Gianforte who Bullock claimed supported a sales tax despite several media outlets exposing the attack to be false. Mr. Bullock never mentioned his support for a sales tax on medications until after the election.
You can read all of Governor Bullock’s proposed budget at http://budget.mt.gov/Budgets/2019_Budget
By: Big Sky Headlines Staff