Lawmakers discuss bills to cut the deficit before Tuesday's Spec - KFBB.com News, Sports and Weather

Lawmakers discuss bills to cut the deficit before Tuesday's Special Session

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HELENA, Mont.- It was as if these lawmakers never left last spring.  They came in ready to work this morning and are more than ready to solve the states budget issues.

Members of the house and senate combined forces to discuss four different bills, but none received as much attention as House Bill Four.

The house bill proposes $40 million  should be transferred from the general fund to the fire suppression account.

Depending on the final amount of federal and state financial responsibility for the season's fires, the transfer will leave roughly $11 million  for next year's fire prevention budget.

"I do believe though that in the special session, we should be looking at how to better prepare the sate statewide in the most successful manner," said Chas Vincent, a State Senator from District One.

The bill also proposes adding a fee to parcel owners whose land is completely or even partially within wildland.

There are more than 5,000 parcels in Montana. Those outside of federal or tribal lands could see a fee of a little more than $20.

Meanwhile in the Senate, Senate Bill Number Two could take away funding from school districts.

It would eliminate the transportation and block grant funds, which would temporarily require schools to dip into reserve funds.

Some were concerned that three school districts had zero dollars in those reserve funds while several others have very little saved up.

Concerns were also raised that rural school systems would be disproportionately affected by these cuts and that these children's needs need to be kept in mind.

“Every school child matters, let's be equitable, across short districts, across all districts in the state. Every student," said Elsie Arntzen Superintendent of Montana Schools.

The senate also discussed what is being called the ‘most painless cut of all’. That is senate Bill One that would temporarily suspend contributions to the judge's retirement system. Lawmakers say the three million dollar cut will go mostly unnoticed to those affected.

The special session will officially start Tuesday at 8:00 am.

Joint hearings for these proposed  bills like the fire suppression fund and transportation and block grant limits for school districts will be on the table.

Joint meetings for taxation and business, labor and economics will also take place Tuesday morning.

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