HELENA — Taxes are shaping up to be one of the big debates of the 2019 Montana Legislature.
The budget estimates from the governor’s office and the Legislative Fiscal Division are roughly the same — about $10 billion over two years to fund a variety of state agencies and programs. The budget includes everything from education to the state’s share of Medicaid expansion.
But, Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock’s budget proposal is asking for tax increases, mostly on tobacco and liquor. The increase would bring in more than $160 million in new revenue to help fund special programs, like investing $12 million into public preschools across the state.
Bullock said tax increases are necessary to keep a stable budget and that he doesn’t want the state to be set back by unexpected expenses, like in 2017, when the severe fire season depleted state resources.