The last special legislative session in Montana was held a decade ago, when Gov. Brian Schweitzer, a Democrat, announced the “call” summoning lawmakers back to Helena in order to fund government and transfer money to pay for wildland firefighting.
Today, Schweitzer’s Democratic successor, Gov. Steve Bullock, is in an even direr situation following an expensive wildfire season and lower-than-expected revenues. To remedy the crisis and backfill a $227 million budget shortfall or spur lawmakers into action, Bullock has proposed drastic spending cuts that leave state leaders with two choices — accept the nearly 10 percent across-the-board cuts to state agencies, or convene for a special session in an effort to craft revenue-generating legislation and defray the cost-cutting.
In the event of the latter, it will be the 32nd such gathering in Montana history, while the former will result in damaging hits to nearly all state government, doing away with early childhood intervention programs, eliminating hundreds of state jobs, reducing safety-monitoring cameras at the state prison, and dicing up essential services to tens of thousands of Montana’s most vulnerable residents.