The Montana Legislative Finance Committee met on Monday and Tuesday this week with an update on the state budget. Committee Chair Nancy Balance says a group of state Democrats came to the meeting asking them to either appropriate money, declare a state of emergency or to create a supplemental budget allocation to address cuts in mental health services and services for the developmentally disabled. Balance says the committee can’t do any of those things.

“The response from the committee, was that, if there is an issue, this is because of the cuts that the governor made. The governor is the only one that can reverse them, so, my suggestion as chairperson was to have them walk upstairs to the second floor and make the request to the governor… I just don’t know whether or not it was a stunt, or exactly what it was.”

Balance says many of those making the request were from Missoula and some had even served in the committee before and should have known the committee’s limitations.  Balance hints that the event may have been an attempt to shift blame for the adverse impact of the cuts away from Governor Steve Bullock.

“Estimates are just exactly that, they are estimates,” Balance said. “Unfortunately we make decisions based on those estimates and there are real life consequences to people in Montana and that’s exactly what we are seeing now: real life consequences that this governor would like to walk away from and point back to the legislature, but that’s just not something that can be legitimately done.”

Balance says revenue is “four million to the positive rather than the 137 million in the negative that the Governor projected” when the special session was called. Balance also says that the committee is extremely optimistic after seeing the recent update.  Montana is currently eight month through the fiscal year, but the last four months can be extremely volatile so no one really knows what will happen.

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