Republicans Urge Governor Bullock to Take $30 Million Prison Deal, Not Raise Taxes
An offer from a private prison in Shelby is now front-and-center in Montana’s ongoing budget difficulties. The prison, run by Core Civic, has been putting money into escrow on a daily basis so that the state could use the money as a down payment to possibly take ownership of the prison in 2019. So far, around $30 million has been saved up, and Core Civic is offering the money to the state now, for a ten year extension of their contract. Republican Legislators like Senator Llew Jones of Conrad think Montana should take the offer.
"The prison appears to be doing a very, very good job," Jones said. "It seems well recognized for what it is doing, it's one of the most affordable in the state. So we looked out there and thought, 'well, there's an extreme likelihood it will be renewed for an extended period anyway,' we thought this $30 million dollars is a great way to offset cuts in other areas, potentially cuts to schools."
But Governor Steve Bullock is the ultimate decider on this issue, and he sees the situation differently.
"The executive has exactly the opposite position, they feel that this should not be part of this time frame, that this negotiation needs to occur later on, that it may not fit into the overall prison vision, and a number of reasons, but their preference is not to recognize this $30 million in this current budget crisis."
On Friday, leaders in the Republican legislature held a press call in which they supported taking the prison’s offer, their consensus appears to be that other sources of revenue must be found instead of raising taxes.