Governor Brian Schweitzer today announced that he will propose returning the $12 million in oil and gas funds raided by Republican legislators last session to cities and towns impacted by oil and gas development in his next budget.
"This $12 million will go to help mitigate the impacts felt by longtime residents in the communities that are helping develop Montana's natural resources at record pace. Right now, oil and gas counties receive about half of all oil and gas revenue or over $550 million during the last 5 years, yet the cities and towns were left out by Republican legislators," said Governor Schweitzer.
In House Bill 604, the same bill in which Republican legislators proposed a 2.75% workers compensation tax increase, also contained a provision which took $12 million in funds from the Board of Oil and Gas Conservation.
This "fund switch" was done because Republican legislators claimed that Montana faced a $400 million deficit. As of today, Montana has $490,697,823 cash in the bank. That means Republican legislators were off by $890 million on a $1.8 billion annual state budget, which is one of the worst budget estimates in the nation and the worst in Montana's history.
A report released by Pew Center on the States, States' Revenue Estimating: Cracks in the Crystal Ball, found the median revenue estimate error was 3.5% and Republican legislators were off by nearly 50%.
The Governor disputed the Republican revenue estimates all session. During the session Schweitzer said, "For them to be right an asteroid would have to hit the middle of Montana. They were wrong by $800 million. We have this money in the bank because I continue to challenge every expense."
Schweitzer concluded, "Returning this money is the right thing to do when we have nearly half a billion dollars in the bank. It was unfortunate this money was stolen from the budget last session by Republicans when cities and towns have infrastructure needs from oil and gas development."
Schweitzer's balanced budget will be released on November 15th.