Current Legislative Fund Balance Sheet Puts Montana in the Red by 63.8 Billion
Legislative services constantly works to keep the legislature notified of how all the various bills at the legislature will effect the general fund. Bills that make it through hearings successfully are added to the general fund balance sheet, while bills that are voted down or tabled are taken off.
Analyst for the legislative fiscal division, Barbara Smith describes what the most recent balance sheet looks like.
“If you want to look at the change from last status sheet to this status sheet, the amount of the change is 188 million,” says Smith. “House Bill 338 accounts for an appropriation change of a 173 million of that, and a revenue change of 30.6 million.”
House Bill 338 is a proposed fix to the state pension system, which would shift new employees to a defined contribution plan rather than a defined benefit plan. Smith says that at the moment, the legislative budget forecast shows an imbalance.
“We have an estimated ending fund balance of 291 million,” said Smith. “We are structurally sitting in a position where we are not balanced. Structural balance means ‘does the money coming in match the money going out’ and we are 63.8 million in the negative there.”
Items move on and off of the general fund balance sheet daily. Smith says that the bills that receive the most interest from legislators concerning the final budget have to do with the state pension system.
Of course, this is not the final budget and even if it were, it would not necessarily imply that Montana would be in the red. The legislature simply appropriates monies to be spent. It is possible that some of that appropriated money is not spent.