Last week, MBPC hosted state budget educational sessions in Billings and Great Falls for legislative candidates. This was a new venture for our organization, and we were excited by the strong turnout. We had nearly 30 participants at each location and candidates traveled as many as 340 miles to attend. Thanks to all who attended!
In Montana, the executive and legislative branches hold a constitutional responsibility to balance the state budget every two years. The legislature’s ability to meet this responsibility rests on its knowledge and understanding of the budget process. Montana’s state budget is complicated, and term limits often result in few legislators at the session with detailed knowledge of the state budget and the budget process.
We decided to host these educational sessions to provide information that can assist current and future legislators to better understand the state budget process. We invited an incredible group of speakers to share their expertise on a few critical parts of the state budget.
Heather O’Loughlin, co-director at MBPC, kicked off both days with an overview of budget and tax policy in Montana, the various funds that make up Montana’s budget, and the steps the legislature takes to pass a budget.
Madalyn Quinlan guided attendees through K-12 education finance in Montana. Madalyn was the chief of staff at the Montana Office of Public Instruction under three state superintendents and, prior to that, she served as a revenue analyst with both OPI and Legislative Fiscal Division.
Next, participants heard from Lois Steinbeck who worked for the Montana Legislative Fiscal Division for more than two decades, leading the division’s analysis on Medicaid and health and human services. She presented on the budget and divisions within the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services and how Medicaid works in Montana.
The day wrapped up with former director for the Department of Revenue, Mike Kadas, who provided an in-depth review of Montana taxes and revenue. Mike also served seven terms in the Montana House of Representatives and four of those on the Appropriations Committee.
Each day also included a lunch panel of current and former legislators to discuss their first-hand experiences and knowledge gained from their time serving on the Appropriations, Tax, or Finance and Claims Committees.
One of the participants said: “The session was EXCELLENT!!! It was obvious that considerable effort was put into planning. Please pass on my applause to the others. I was especially appreciative of the extensive notes to have an immediate fileable reference of the session, and so that I did not have to scramble with note taking but could just pay attention. The panel during lunch was also a great touch, and you rounded up good people for that position!”
We hope to host these trainings again and continue to educate current and future legislators. In the meantime, if you would like to see what information was presented the links to everyone’s presentations are below.