The 2017 legislative session hasn’t even begun, but there are already signs of a hotly contested budget battle after Governor Bullock’s proposed budget asked for cuts in the Montana Highway Patrol. The Montana Attorney General’s Office is opposing the request, spokesman Eric Sell explains.

"Governor Steve Bullock has proposed cutting the Montana Highway Patrol by ten percent over the next two years and that equals a layoff of about 27 uniformed troopers," said Sell. "The Attorney General's Office is very concerned about the implications this budget reduction could have if it comes to effect. We feel like this is a lack of leadership on behalf of the Governor's office."

There are a little over 230 highway patrol troopers currently on the force and Sell says that public safety is at risk if funds can’t be found.

"he Governor has suggested that this is due to a drop in gas tax revenue and hasn't provided any other solution to this and suggests that this hole is ok with him," Sell said. "This is his recommendation that he has made. It is just dangerous to allow this type of drop in the number of Highway Patrol Troopers to happen."

Bullock’s Budget does dip into fire suppression funds to cover other financial obligations. The attorney General’s office hopes to work with the legislature and the Governor’s office during the legislative session to find the funds needed to retain the at-risk troopers.