It is optimistic news for Montanans that with only two months remaining in the first year of the current two-year budget, revenue projections are back on track with the Legislatureís original estimate. But even as we optimistically watch the revenue numbers climb each month, we are seeing our most vulnerable citizens suffering the effects of the cuts to human service providers the Governor chose to make when he called the Special Session.
Feeling optimistic about revenue projections at the time of the special session, the Legislature provided a process for restoring the Governorís cuts should revenues rise to a certain level by July 2018. We also provided an option to immediately fund $15 million of essential human services if the Governor would renew the contract with the prison in Shelby.
The $15 million from the prison contract renewal could have been used immediately following the special session last November to reduce the cuts to human service providers. With the money from the prison contract and the increasing revenue, there appears to be enough to restore the funding for human services through the remainder of this budget period, June 30, 2019. Thus far, the Governor has declined the money from the Shelby prison.
It will be extremely disappointing if the Governor chooses to allow the harmful cuts to critical service providers to continue instead of taking advantage of the options the Legislature provided for him and immediately restoring funding to human services.
Montana Rep. Nancy Ballance of Hamilton (HD87) is House Appropriations Chair and Legislative Finance Committee Chair.