The 68th Montana Legislature is officially in session. As Senate leadership, we’re excited to see Senate Republicans getting to work on enacting conservative policy for our state.
The last time the Legislature met, we successfully passed a conservative balanced budget, cut taxes for individuals and businesses, secured our Second Amendment rights, invested in public access to public lands and high speed broadband, and passed legislation to protect the unborn and further secure our elections. We also put a constitutional amendment on the ballot to ensure Montanans’ electronic communications are protected from government intrusion, which voters overwhelming adopted in November’s election.
Since the last legislative session, three major things have happened that will impact the current session in big ways. The first is that Montana now has a record budget surplus in the neighborhood of $2 billion. The second is that Montana’s housing market went from very hot in certain areas to completely unaffordable and unsustainable across much of the state. The third is that voters elected a supermajority of Republicans to the Legislature, something that had never happened before.
All of this means we’re entering what we expect to be another historic legislative session. Top of mind for Republicans is providing financial relief to Montanans who are suffering from President Biden’s inflation and the high cost of living. Perhaps the “worst kept secret,” as Governor Gianforte has put it, is that we’re going to cut taxes again. With our massive budget surplus, we’re going to pay down the state’s debt to get rid of those existing taxpayer obligations. We’re also working on the specifics of returning hundreds of millions of dollars back to Montana resident taxpayers. As conservative Republicans, we know that that money belongs to you, not the government.
We’re also working with the governor on a massive Red Tape Relief project to get rid of unnecessary government regulations that stifle businesses and prevent Montanans from achieving their full potential. On the housing front, we’re again working in conjunction with the governor on a suite of legislative options to make housing more affordable and attainable.
We expect to put more state constitutional amendments on the ballot for voters to consider. It takes 100 out of 150 legislators to propose an amendment, and 51% of voters in the next election to actually amend the state’s constitution. Both of those are big hurdles to meet, meaning amendments need to be clear and have broad support.
The Legislature will consider hundreds of additional proposals in the coming months. Every member is there to represent their specific constituents and every lawmaker has their own individual goals and priorities. But the ones we’ve mentioned here are the big ones for the Republican caucus as a whole and the ones we expect to define this legislative session.
The Legislature is the most transparent and most accessible branch of Montana’s government. Contact your representative and senator. Testify on bills you care about, whether in person at the Capitol or remotely via Zoom. Make your voice heard.
Sen. Jason Ellsworth, R-Hamilton, is the President of the Montana Senate. Sen. Ken Bogner, R-Miles City, is the President Pro Tempore and Sen. Steve Fitzpatrick, R-Great Falls, is the Senate Majority Leader.