Speaker Knudsen Claims Governor is Threatening Cuts to Raise Taxes, Skeptical of Special Session Timing
Montana Governor Steve Bullock has called the legislature to a special session starting next week in hopes of balancing the budget with a mix of transfers, tax hikes and government cuts, but Republican Speaker of the House Austin Knudsen is already skeptical that Bullock is playing politics with the budget to get tax increases. For starters, Knudsen believes some proposed cuts are just threats, which should be replaced with cuts to non-essential services.
"He literally had on his cut list, diapers for foster kids and developmental assistance for blind children, all the while you've got agencies, for instance, The Montana Historical Society has got 70 employees, approximately, and of those 70 employees you've got 17 deputy employees at a higher pay band than the other employees at that agency," Knudsen said.
Knudsen believes many of the proposed cuts are there in an attempt to force the legislature’s hand.
"[Governor Bullock] can make those cuts tomorrow, he does not need the legislature to make these cuts," Knudsen said. "He has stated he is refusing to make any of his cuts until after the legislature is adjured from this special session,"Knudsen said. "That tells me he wants to hold a gun to our head and threaten us with these heinous cuts unless we raise taxes and do what he wants us to do."
Knudsen even questions the session’s timing.
"We're only three months into the state's fiscal year and we haven't gotten any updated data yet, and that is why the timing of this special session is very suspect, because, ironically, about a week and a half after this special session is over, we are set to get a revenue update from our non-partisan staff and, honestly, numbers are trending up," Knudsen said.
While Knudsen says republicans will work with the governor to replenish the state’s wildfire suppression fund, he says tax increases are unlikely.