Legislative Update: April 25, 2015

As of the date of this update, the Legislature has still not adjourned sine die.

There was an expectation that that would happen today. However, the conservative members of the House Republican caucus have revolted over the public works bill. The House will once again try to pass that bill this coming Monday.

At this point, the bill authorizes $150 million in state spending. The hang up appears to be the desire to spend cash on the projects, as opposed to bonding them.


HB 2: Both the House and Senate have now passed the state general fund spending bill, HB 2. It is expected that the Governor will sign that bill.

SB 280 and 281 – The Morrow Bills: As expected, the Governor vetoed SB 281 – the punitive damages reform bill. SB 280 is on the Governor’s desk as of this writing.

Medicaid Coverage Expansion: The Legislature has passed this legislation, which is expected to cover an additional 70,000 Montanans. The Governor will sign the bill into law.

CSKT Compact: After procedural maneuvering on the part of the Democratic members of the House and the moderate House Republicans, this bill was brought to the House floor and passed after the bill had been killed in Committee. Governor Bullock will sign the bill into law.

Tax Reform: Due to the Governor’s vetoes, there will be no major tax reduction legislation enacted this session.

SB 171: The most notable tax proposal, which is still alive, is a bill by Senator Tutvedt. The bill is a tax simplification measure, SB 171, which, if enacted, would make federal taxable income, with a short list of adjustments, the base for the individual income tax in Montana. The bill would make taxable income subject to two rates, 4.7% and 6.1%, with separate rate tables for taxpayers who file a joint return, who file as head of household, and who file as single or married separate. It would require taxpayers to use the same filing status as on their federal returns. This bill also would replace the 2% capital gains credit with a 1.5% rate reduction for net capital gains. Initially, SB 171 reduced the corporate income tax rate from 6.75% to 6.5%. That measure was removed in the conference committee in order to reduce the fiscal note.

The Governor’s office is opposing the bill. Thus, it remains to be seen whether he’s willing to sign SB 171 into law. Governor Bullock has 10 days to act on it.

SB 157: Senate Bill 157 is a bill designed to change the appraisal cycle for homes, businesses, agricultural land, and forest land. The bill, has been passed by the Legislature and has been sent to the Governor. If signed into law, the components of the bill are to:

  • Shorten the reappraisal cycle for homes, businesses, and agricultural land from six years to two years;
  • Simplify the calculation for taxable value for these properties;
  • Eliminate the phase-in of new values.