This week is the fourteenth week of the Montana Legislature. As of last Thursday, we have completed a total of sixty-four out of a possible ninety days.
This week the Senate will be voting on House Bill 2, the state budget bill. Each legislative session, the Legislature prepares a two year budget for the State of Montana. The Montana Constitution requires that the budget is balanced. That means the amount of money appropriated cannot exceed anticipated revenues over the two year period.
The budgeting process is a long one. The Governor prepares the budget prior to the session. After the Legislature begins, the Legislature begins examining the budget immediately in January. The budgeting process generally does not finish until the end of April.
The budget is treated just like any other piece of legislation. The budget is examined in committees and then must pass each chamber. The primary work of establishing the budget usually occurs in subcommittees comprised of members of the House and Senate. However, at each stage of the process, items of spending are added or subtracted from the budget.
After the Legislature finishes the budget, the budget is sent to the Governor. At this point, the Governor has a strong voice in the budgeting process. The Governor can either sign the budget into law or the Governor can propose amendments to the budget. Usually, the Governor and a select group of legislators negotiate the final amounts for each agency in the budget and the Governor then proposes amendments based upon the negotiations. The amendments are then sent to the Legislature where they are usually approved.
Besides House Bill 2, there are a number of additional bills that move along with the budget. These bills include legislation appropriating money from various trust accounts funded by coal tax revenue. The trust accounts pay for things such as water and sewer projects, bridges, and grants to cultural programs like the Great Falls Symphony. In the past, our district has received a number of large grants to fund water and sewer projects. These grants have helped pay for work in Cascade, Vaughn, and Simms along with environmental remediation work in Belt.
This year House Bill 6 appropriates money for the Greenfields Irrigation District for work on the Arnold Coulee hydroelectric project and for work on a couple different headworks. In total, the Greenfield Irrigation District could receive up to $375,000 in grants.
Next week, I will provide another update. As always, thank you for the opportunity serve you.