Montana state budget
|Signed into law||May 12, 2011|
Montana has a total state debt of approximately $9,530,232,000 when calculated by adding the total of outstanding official debt, pension and other post-employment benefits (OPEB) liabilities, Unemployment Trust Fund loans, and the FY2013 state budget gap. The state debt total is similar to the FY2012 state debt of $9,533,441,000, 
Montana's total state debt per capita is $9,547.43.
A new Fraser Institute report on economic freedom ranks Montana 44th in economic Freedom. Delaware ranks 1st and New Mexico ranks 50th. The study examines the impact of economic freedom on both the level of economic activity and the growth of economic activity. According to the study, the freest economies operate with minimal government interference, relying upon personal choice and markets to answer basic economic questions. More governmental restrictions on those choices curbs economic freedom. The study looks at three major categories per state – size of government, taxes and regulations. 
Federal Aid to State Budget
The chart below represents how much of the state’s budget comes from the federal government. The number is the corresponding ranking in relation to the rest of the nation (if #1, the state receives the highest percentage of federal funding in the nation):
|Montana||34.95% (#7)||36.71% (#11)||41.68% (#10)||41.86% (#8)|
Figures are calculated by dividing each state’s intergovernmental revenue into its general revenue. Data is available at in U.S. Census.
Governor Bullock's 2014-15 Budget Proposal can be found here. It includes over $110 million in tax cuts and rebates, using the existing $400 million of general fund balance to give a $400 rebate to every Montana primary homeowner. The governor's proposal includes a $300 million ending fund balance on June 30, 2015.
FY2012-13 State Budget
- See past state budgets
The state ended FY2012 with a surplus of $453 million.
The Legislature's chief revenue forecaster told lawmakers in Dec. 2011 that Montana's budget is projected to have a $426.7 million surplus by mid-2013.
Republican legislative leaders and the governor agreed to a compromise budget plan contained in House Bill 2. The House approved the bill on April 27, 2011, and was it endorsed by the Senate in a critical initial vote. The compromise includes spending less in state tax money than the governor proposed but spending more from the general fund than Republicans initially proposed. It also restores about $100 million in federal money.
Governor's Proposed Budget
On November 15, 2010, Gov. Schweitzer proposed a $3.7 billion general fund state budget for FY2012-13. The budget ends FY2013 with a $125 million ending fund balance, or general fund surplus, as of the end of the two-year budget period in mid-2013.
Highlights of the budget include:
- increases in school and university funding
- reducing homeowner property taxes
- eliminating business equipment taxes for all but the largest companies
- a 1% pay increase in January 2012 and a 3% increase in January 2013, with the state's contribution to employee health insurance remaining the same, pursuant to a deal reached with unions awaiting ratification by union members.
- $95 million worth of transfers of money from other funds to beef up the general fund
Schweitzer's estimate of state general fund tax collections in November 2010 for FY2012-13 of $1.747 billion and $1.846 billion, respectively,. In December 2010, Schweitzer said that state tax collections were outpacing earlier estimates and he predicted that there would be an additional $120 million available for the FY2012-13 state budget.
The 2011 Legislature will begin drafting the general fund budget for the biennium when it convenes in January 2011.
In Sept. 2010, the legislature's chief revenue forecaster estimated that state spending for mid-2011 to mid-2013 will be $300 million over the projected revenues for that period. Assuming that all current programs are extended at their current levels, the state's projected total expenses for the next two years are $3.94 billion while the mid-range of anticipated revenues is $3.572 billion for the period beginning July 1, 2011, according to estimates from the Legislative Fiscal Division.
It previously forecasted that the state could need an additional $400 million to continue current government services for the FY2012-13 biennium. When the division made the forecast in June 2010, it also presented state lawmakers with a list of ways to balance the budget, including deep cuts, as well as tax and fee proposals. Proposed cuts included early release of prisoners and closing MSU-Northern. Gov. Brian Schweitzer called the Division's assessment "crazy" and said he threw it in the trash after he read the third page. He said that the estimate was wrong and that he did not expect layoffs or raising taxes would be necessary to balance the budget. The governor said that some of the state's $327 million cash reserves could be used to fill the budget gap. The governor also said that strong grain and cattle prices and a large wheat harvest could boost the state's economy, as could interest in oil shale beds. In addition, the governor said that he would tap $341 million in cash reserves to balance the budget should it be necessary.
Eric Feaver, the head of the MEA-MFT union that represents approximately 3,000 state employees, said that he would not agree to a deal with Gov. Schweitzer that included a pay freeze. The union agreed to a pay freeze for the prior biennial budget and said that four years without a pay increase is too much. The Montana Public Employees Association, which represents approximately 3,500 state employees and 1,500 university employees, also plans to seek the same agreement in joint negotiations.
In response to the union's announcement, the governor's office said that everyone, including state employees, must reduce their expectations given the current difficult economic conditions. Budget Director David Ewer did not rule out a potential pay freeze and noted that many state employees in other states have taken pay cuts, furloughs or layoffs.Traditionally, the governor meets with union representatives prior to legislative budget negotiations. If an agreement with the governor is not reached, union negotiations would take place during legislative budget process, a process that union leader Feaver described as "about the worst possible outcome, but it may be what we have to do."
Montana currently has no statewide, official spending database online. On January 17, 2009, Montana Senator Joe Balyeat of Bozeman introduced SB 241, the "Taxpayer Right to Know Act." This bill would have created a searchable Website that, among other things, would have listed information about the state's budget. Data would have come from executive, legislative, and judicial agencies, and would have included appropriations, expenditures, and revenue sources. According to Senator Balyeat, that the taxpayers' "constitutional right to know where their money is going is something that we as the people's elected representatives, the legislature, believe is paramount," and "we believe this bill will do exactly that." Given that the "Taxpayer Right to Know Act" had over half of the legislature signed on as co-sponsors, the bill appeared to have had a high probability of passage. However, SB 241 died in committee, as did HJ 43. House Joint Resolution 43 would have mandated that Montana's Legislative Finance Committee evaluate what would be necessary to put a state spending site online. Both bills died in committee during the spring of 2009.
The following table is helpful in evaluating the level of transparency provided by a state spending and transparency database:
|State Database||Searchability||Grants||Contracts||Line Item Expenditures||Dept/Agency Budgets||Public Employee Salary|
- See also: Evaluation of Montana state website
Currently, the Montana Policy Institute has posted a transparency survey to determine what users wish to see in a transparency-focused website. Additionally, the Montana Policy Institute has launched a website dedicated to bringing transparency to Montana. Visit the site here. MPI has also launched a site dedicated to education transparency, a site which "contains district level revenue and spending data in an easy to use format. You'll be able to compare up to five districts to each other and to state averages across several meaningful criteria. You'll be able to see revenue and spending trends for each district. And you'll be able to see just how difficult it is to get publicly available information about what your schools are spending your money on."
Multi-Measure Budget Transparency Profile
The Institute of Government and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois has created a multi-measure transparency profile for Montana, which measures state transparency as of September 2011 using indicators from a range of organizations, including Sunshine Review. These indicators measure both website transparency and other recognized facets of governmental transparency. In addition, IGPA presents four unique indicators of non-transparency based on the observation that transfers or reassignments between general and special funds can obscure the true fiscal condition of a state.
Montana operates on a biennium budget. The biennium includes a 24-month period from July 1st of odd-numbered years to June 30th of odd-numbered years, such as the 2009-11 biennium, which runs from July 1, 2009 to June 30, 2011. According to state law the Governor is required to submit a budget recommendation to the Legislature by November 15 on even numbered years. The state Constitution gives sole authority to the Legislature to appropriate state funds. The House and the Senate review the recommended budget along with any requests made beginning January of the next fiscal year and additional revenue forecasts.  
Tori M. Hunthausen is the Legislative Auditor. The responsibility of the Legislative Audit Division is to conduct financial and compliance, performance, and information system audits of state agencies or their programs, including the university system. Their audit reports are published online. The Legislative Auditor is solely responsible to the Legislative Assembly and is appointed by and operates primarily through the Legislative Audit Committee. The term of office is for two years beginning July 1 of each even numbered year.
The Institute for Truth in Accounting (IFTA) rates Montana “Timely” in filing the state’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) – The annual report of state and local governmental entities. IFTA rated 22 states timely, 22 states tardy, and 6 states as worst. IFTA does not consider Montana's CAFRs, and those of the other states, to be accurate representations of the state’s financial condition because the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) basis does not include significant liabilities for the pension plans and for other post employment benefits, such as health care. Montana's CAFRs are published online by the Department of Administration, State Accounting Division, State Accounting Bureau. Mr. Paul Christofferson is Administrator of the Montana State Accounting Division. The Accounting Bureau is responsible for the preparation of the CAFR and auditing all local government entities.
Montana has received $1.5 billion in federal funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
According to 2008 Census data, the state of Montana and local governments in the state employed a total of 79,153 people. Of those employees, 46,560 were full-time employees receiving a net pay of $161,277,671 per month and 23,534 were part-time employees paid $19,716,027 per month. Nearly 50% of those employees, or 39,280 employees, were in education or higher education.
- State Budget Solutions, Montana
- Model transparency legislation from the American Legislative Exchange Council is available at this link.
- Montana Policy Institute
- Montana Office of Budget and Program Planning
- Montana Legislature, Legislative Fiscal Division
- Transparency in Montana's Education
- Montana Policy Institute
- State of Montana,"2011 Biennium Executive Budget"
- Gov. Brian Scheitzer,"2009 State of State Address," January 28, 2009
- ↑ National Conference of State Legislatures "State Experiences with Annual and Biennial Budgeting" April 2011
- ↑ State Budget Solutions "State Budget Solutions' third annual State Debt Report shows total state debt over $4 trillion" Aug. 28, 2012
- ↑ State Budget Solutions “Report reveals aggregate state debt exceeds $4 trillion” Oct. 24, 2011
- ↑ State Budget Solutions "State debt more than $37,000 per private worker, $13,000 per capita" Oct. 2, 2012
- ↑ Fraser Institute, Economic Freedom of North America 2012
- ↑ Governor Bullock's 2014-15 Budget Proposal Jan. 7, 2012
- ↑ 2013 Montana Legislature 2013 Biennium Budget Overview
- ↑ KTVQ.com "Montana closes out fiscal year with $450 million surplus" Aug. 1, 2012
- ↑ Businessweek "Montana budget looking at $426 million surplus" Dec. 6, 2011
- ↑ The Helena Independent Record "Montana Senate approves budget bill in first vote" April 27, 2011
- ↑ 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 11.4 The Missoulian "Schweitzer proposes business, property tax cuts in $3.7B budget" Nov. 16, 2010
- ↑ Billings Gazette "Schweitzer's budget counts on $95 million in transferred funds" Nov. 16, 2010
- ↑ The Great Falls Tribune "Schweitzer says state budget picture $120 million rosier" Dec. 15, 2010
- ↑ 14.0 14.1 The Billings Gazette "State budget picture brightens, but deficit still looms, legislative office says" Oct. 6, 2010
- ↑ The Great Falls Tribune "Short-term state budget news better" Sept. 16, 2010
- ↑ 16.0 16.1 16.2 16.3 16.4 16.5 The Billings Gazette "Ag and oil industries may ease budget gap" Sept. 2, 2010
- ↑ 17.0 17.1 The Billings Gazette "Schweitzer optimistic about state budget despite forecasts" Sept. 27, 2010
- ↑ 18.0 18.1 18.2 CanadianBusiness.com "Montana state employees draw line in the sand over potential for 2 more years of pay freezes" July 18, 2010
- ↑ Bill Status, Senate Bill 241, "Taxpayer Right to Know Act"
- ↑ Bill Status, House Join Resolution 43
- ↑ National Association of Budget Officers, "Budget Processes in the States," 2008
- ↑ State of Montana,"TIMETABLE FOR 2011 BIENNIUM EXECUTIVE BUDGET AND 2009 BIENNIUM ACTIONS," January 15,2009
- ↑ Montana Legislature,"STATE OF MONTANA BUDGET PROCESS," December 7,2007
- ↑ Legislative Audit Division Web site, retrieved October 30, 2009
- ↑ Institute for Truth in Accounting, “The Truth About Balanced Budgets—A Fifty State Study,” Page 35
- ↑ Department of Administration, State Accounting Division, State Accounting Bureau Web site, retrieved October 30, 2009
- ↑ State of Indiana, “State Credit Ratings-as of June 24, 2009"
- ↑ Recovery, "Stimulus Spending by State"
- ↑ 29.0 29.1 29.2 2008 Montana Public Employment U.S. Census Data