*Update. Due to COVID-19 all interim committee meetings have been cancelled.
It’s a busy week next week for Montana legislative interim committees. A number of the topics that policymakers will consider next week are issues Montana families are grappling with in their communities – from access to early childhood education to affordable housing. We hope these discussions will result in concrete state policies in 2021 to help move Montana on a better course for families and workers. And how do we ensure that the state has the revenue it needs to make these new investments? Policymakers will be discussing that as well!
Here’s a quick summary of what we can expect next week.
Local Government Interim Committee – March 17 – 18
On the docket:
- Affordable housing
- Regional fire authority
- Subdivision development
- Water/wastewater funding
The Local Government Interim Committee (LGIC) will hear from several experts from the housing sector on growing demands for affordable housing. This work builds upon the successful efforts in 2019 to consider legislation to invest in affordable housing. MBPC has long called on state policymakers to consider an investment in affordable housing, and we are pleased to see legislators will spend the interim discussing some potential solutions.
Revenue Interim Committee – March 19 – 20
On the docket:
- Property taxes
- Individual income tax
- Corporate income tax
- Updated revenue estimate
- Energy/conservation tax credits
The Revenue Interim Committee (RIC) will kick things off on Thursday, March 19th, with the committee formed to study Montana’s tax code. The agenda includes discussions on property taxes and individual and corporate income taxes in Montana. Check out MBPC’s recently updated Property Tax Policy Basics. MBPC’s staff will also highlight that income tax cuts enacted in 2003 largely benefited the wealthiest households, while producing little impact for everyday Montanans. The tax study committee has a number of clear policies that can ensure adequate levels of revenue without shifting increased tax liability on families living on low and moderate incomes.
On March 20, RIC will hear from its staff on updated revenue estimates for the current fiscal year and what we might expect for the coming year. The committee will also review several tax credits, aimed at incentivizing alternative energy.
On the docket:
- Community college funding
- Special education funding
- School assessments
- School nutrition
- Student mental health services
- Pre-K funding
A subcommittee of the Legislative Finance Committee will meet to continue discussions on funding for community colleges and K-12 special education. The committee will likely provide direction on reforms to the funding formula for community colleges. The committee has also been considering legislation to finally place the adjustment for special education costs into the base funding formula.
Following that, the regular Education Interim Committee will tackle a number of bigger issues, including school nutrition, access to mental health services for students, and pre-K/early childhood education. On March 19, the committee will hear from a panel on the school breakfast program called Breakfast after the Bell program. On November 20, school counselors will present on issues related to access mental health services. The Committee will also hold a work session to look at models for investing in public pre-K programs.
Children, Families, Health, and Human Services Interim Committee – March 19 – 20
On the docket:
- Senior & Long-Term Care
- Child Protective Services
The Children, Families, Health and Human Services Committee (CFHHS) will continue its work on two major studies: HJR 50, to study Senior & Long-Term Care services; and HJR 48/49, studying child protective services. The first study will include a panel of advocates focused on services for seniors and an overview of funding trends for SLTC division.
On the second day, the Committee will hear from the Department of Public Health & Human Services on its work to implement the federal Family First Prevention Act and preventative services to support families intersecting with child and family services.
Everyone in Montana should be able to afford basic necessities, like safe and stable housing, safe and reliable child care, and food for their children – no exceptions. To move Montana forward and make it a state where we can all live, work, and enjoy all that Big Sky Country has to offer, we must put people first. We must invest in good jobs for a modern economy, affordable health care, quality education, and a safe environment so Montana families are stable and our communities are strong.