Missoula, MT (KGVO-AM News) - The Republican Majority Leader in the Montana Senate, Steve Fitzpatrick, representing District 10, spoke to KGVO News this week and compared the priorities for spending the nearly $2.5 billion one-time budget surplus between Republicans and Democrats in the Montana Legislature.

Fitzpatrick began by touting House Bill 816.

“With House Bill 816, we propose to allow another $200 million in income and property tax rebates,” said Fitzpatrick. “We've looked at the revenue projections that are coming in and we feel comfortable that there's some additional money that we can give back in rebates. So the Senate has now passed around $700 million of rebates and we look like we have another $200 million that we can pass out. We still have time to work on the budget, so obviously, there could be more, but at this point, we feel real confident that we can give a little bit more back to the people in Montana and still take care of many of the pressing needs that we have in the state.”

Fitzpatrick was specific about where the rebates come from and where they will go.

“Preliminarily, there's going to be about $250 million of rebates for property tax owners, who are primary resident property tax owners in the state of Montana, and that'll be $500 this year and $500 next year,” he said. “Then in House Bill 192, there'll be rebates in there up to $1,250 per person. So a couple of two would receive $2,500.”

Where Fitzpatrick got specific was in explaining the priorities in using the surplus to reimburse Montanans favored by the Republican majority, as opposed to Democrats in the legislature.

“There is some opposition,” he said. “There's a group of people here that primarily on the Democratic side, and they don't want to have any rebates at all. We passed a bunch of the bills today and they were all pretty much on a party-line vote. I think there's a balance. I'm happy to give back as much money as possible, but we do have other needs the state of Montana doesn't need to pay for. we've got some problems that the State Prison we need to fix and down at Warm Springs we need to fix, so we're going to need to spend some money on those things around here too. However, I'm happy to see that we’re moving some rather significant tax relief measures through the legislature.”

Fitzpatrick said, as Montana Democratic Party Chair Robyn Driscoll has often said on KGVO’s Talk Back show, the minority party has its own spending priorities.

“The Democrats have a little bit different priority than the Republicans,” he said. “They're more into things like rebates for renters, and putting together funding for childcare. I think the proposals by the governor are more long-term investments, things like putting money in the Highway Trust Fund so that we don't have to raise taxes in the future to gas taxes or paying off the state debt, or things like that. So you know, there are different priorities on how to use the full 2.5 billion.”

The transmittal deadline at the State Legislature is March 3.

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