By James Bradley
Legislative News Service
UM School of Journalism

HELENA -- Governor Greg Gianforte’s proposed two-year state budget cuts $100 million from his predecessor’s, which he says is a win.

“This budget brings fiscal responsibility back to state government while providing essential services,” he said at a press conference Thursday.

The proposal asks for higher starting pay for new teachers, and increased funding for substance abuse prevention and treatment programs. The money for those substance abuse programs would come from cuts to proposed pre-K programs and as yet unseen revenue from marijuana taxes and money from the state’s tobacco settlement funds. More money would also be set aside to help low-income homeowners pay their property taxes.

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The budget also calls for several tax cuts. The highest income tax bracket would be 6.75% under Gianforte’s budget, rather than 6.9%. Businesses would also be exempt from capital gains tax under specific circumstances. The budget would also double the cap for businesses to be exempt from equipment tax.

House and Senate Democrats released a joint statement in an email immediately following Gianforte’s conference, saying that they would work to prevent budget cuts to pay for tax breaks for the wealthy.

“Democrats are committed to creating jobs and opportunity for all Montanans, and that means holding the line on unnecessary cuts made on the backs of working families,” the statement read.

Senate Republicans said in an emailed statement that they “look forward to reviewing Governor Gianforte's budget proposal in detail and working with the governor to enact a conservative budget that includes Republican priorities."

House Republicans have not yet commented on the proposal.

James Bradley is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association, the Montana Newspaper Association and the Greater Montana Foundation.

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