Money illustration (Photo via Pixabay | Public Domain).
Gov. Gianforte is prioritizing tax relief and spending surplus on repairs and expansions to the state hospital and state prison, according to a release outlining his 2023 budget priorities on Thursday. The full budget will be released Tuesday.
The governor is the chief budget officer of the state to be considered by the Legislature. The details of the budget to be submitted are from Thursday’s release.
Gianforte’s budget proposes $1 billion in tax relief, $500 million from both property and income taxes, proposing to reduce the income tax rate most Montanans pay from 6.5% to 5.9%. The release said that when the governor took office, the top income tax rate was 6.9%.
The governor said that property taxes are most used by local governments, and that local governments should not “tax Montanans out of their home.” His plan would be to request greater transparency and accountability in local government spending and an option to pay property taxes monthly.
“As I meet with Montanans in every corner of our state, I hear repeated concerns about rising property taxes,” the governor said in the release. “And they’re right to be concerned. Property taxes are too high.”
The governor’s budget also provides families with a $1,200 child tax credit for children under six years old, as well as a $5,000 adoption tax credit.
Paired with tax relief, the governor is proposing to spend the state’s $1.5 billion surplus on repairs to infrastructure, doubling the state’s rainy day fund, tripping the fire suppression fund and putting $10 million a year into “active forest management.” The release said the budget will also pay off obligation debt, making the state “debt-free in 2023.”
The governor’s budget invests $200 million to expand water and sewer infrastructure to help increase housing supply and Montanans’ access to affordable housing, as well as $100 million to repair roads and bridges.
The $300 million will fund improvements and repairs at Montana State Hospital, intensive behavioral health care, and community-based services for out-patient care across the state. The governor’s budget also boosts funding by 50% for the governor’s HEART Fund initiative, and permanently funds eight drug treatment courts that are losing federal funding.
The budget makes the State of Montana debt-free in 2023, paying off all general obligation debt and saving taxpayers $40 million over the next two years.
The budget also would expand tax credits like the business equipment tax exemption from $300,000 to $1 million and nearly doubles the Montana Trades Education Credit for employers to send their employees to learn a trade.
The proposal doubles the cap of the Big Sky Scholarship and increases funding by 40 percent for the TEACH Act to increase starting teacher pay
The budget also funds 16 new highway patrol officers and criminal investigators, as well as six new prosecutors at the Montana Department of Justice. The criminal investigation agents will focus on drug trafficking, human trafficking, narcotics, major crimes, and crimes against children.
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