The Montana Legislative session ended several months ago, but lawmakers have been eagerly awaiting the final tax revenue numbers for this fiscal year.

Chair of the House Finance Committee, Hamilton legislator Nancy Ballance of District 87 said the end of July is when the final numbers are released.

“The final numbers showing revenue was up $107 million, that’s about a four percent increase above what was anticipated,” said Ballance. “One of the other big items for us was the ending fund balance and we ended up with almost $160 million higher than what we expected in our ending fund balance.”

Ballance said the legislature attempted to keep spending low, in order to avoid another situation that occurred in 2017, when Montana had a fund imbalance and had to borrow $35 million from the state’s ‘rainy day fund’. Unfortunately, 2017 was a record fire year.

“We kept the budget extremely low this session which also gives us the ability going into the next session, since our revenues are up and our spending is low and that makes it an exciting development,” she said.

The state’s fire fund also benefits from the increased tax revenue.

“The fire fund gets paid first and we’re going into this fire season with over $65 million,” she said. “A typical fire year is about $25 million. Our most recent disaster year of 2017 was about $70 million. We’re going into this fire season in good shape, but of course we hope we don’t have to spend a penny of it.”

Ballance said fire funding is based upon where the fires are located. Fires on state lands are funded by the state and by federal funds on federal lands. When fires cross from state to federal lands, costs are shared by the state and federal governments.