Short report on legislative special session
The week of Nov. 13 was a very memorable and busy week for me. The governor called the Legislature back to town on Monday to help fix the budget deficit. I am on the House Business and Labor Committee and we were scheduled to meet jointly with the Senate Business and Labor. I missed the Monday meeting with a higher priority — my mother’s funeral service was that afternoon.
I headed to Helena at 3 a.m. the next day for the 8 a.m. committee meeting. We met and discuss several bills. The full House Assembly was called to order at noon that day, where our first order of business was to adopt rule changes that would allow us to speed up the process of reading and voting on bills to accomplish our business in a much condensed time schedule.
During that day we would meet on the House floor and then in committee until our 10:30 p.m. adjournment. The next day was a repeat of meeting in committee, then meeting with the whole House assembly, discussing bills, options, and voting on them. The Senate was doing the same. We reached agreement and the solutions to the budget problems with much discussion and had adjournment on Wednesday night at 1:30 a.m.
The governor was required by the Legislature to make 10 percent cuts due to state revenue reductions. With legislative pressure, the governor did make those proposed cuts of $76 million dollars on the Tuesday of our return. That left $150 million dollars still needed. With a plan from legislative options and passed legislation, $124 million dollars was authorized from transfers from unused accounts to other accounts to help the states most vulnerable citizens and programs and backfill the fire fund.
This still left $27 million dollars needed. This was accomplished by a combination of a $15 million option of furloughs for state employees and for the governor to accept use up to $30 million from the proposed down payment for the states purchase of the private prison in Shelby.
I did not go into detail of the bills and will if you want to contact me. You need to know that your taxes were not raised, we have a balanced budget, as called for in our Montana Constitution, and very important and needed program cuts to our most vulnerable population were held to a minimum.
—Rep. Denley Loge, House District 14