The Montana state legislature gavels to a close after nearly 90 days in the most unusual session ever experienced by state lawmakers due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Senate President Mark Blasdel was on the KGVO Talk Back program early Thursday morning to answer questions from listeners.

Blasdel said that cutting taxes was a major priority for legislators in this session.

“From coming in and putting a sustainable budget together, we're looking at less than a two and a half percent increase over the next two years, which is well below inflation,” said Blasdel. “We're providing over $120 million in tax cuts, everything from cutting the business equipment tax which was eliminated for over 4000 small businesses, in addition to reducing the income tax and property taxes.”

One of the listeners said that eliminating same day voter registration went against the will of the voters.

“We went in on ballot and election security as primary goals of ours,” he said. “You know, we did roll back same day voter registration, but we did it to the Monday before the election, not the Friday as was on the ballot initiative a few years ago, We believe that we have to let those election officers have some time to conduct the elections as well.”

Blasdel said the legislature had to do some maneuvering to use the ARPA funds to cut taxes for Montanans.

“One of the challenges we had this session is when we got the federal stimulus bill that was just passed by President Biden,” he said. “One of the provisions that the Democratic Party put in that was that states cannot cut taxes below certain levels or using certain funds. It's called ‘maintenance of effort’ where we actually have to use money and put it into the education funding formula at the state level to push down taxes.”

Blasdel also responded to a question about how and why the legislature overruled the Missoula two-cents per gallon gas tax.

“There was a lot of controversy on that within the industry and how it was laid out within the county and the city and so forth and, and the challenges with that,” he said. “Obviously the committee passed that legislation and moved it through and ultimately it's going to become law but there were just a lot of challenges with that and the legislature saw fit to take that away.”

The session saw many legislators attend remotely, while others chose to attend in person.

 

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