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Bullock says no need to cut state services in next budget

Bullock says no need to cut state services in next budget

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HELENA — Gov. Steve Bullock released a draft budget for the next two years on Monday that does not cut essential state services or raise taxes. But the proposal could face significant changes by the incoming Republican governor-elect and the Republican-controlled legislature.

The outgoing Democratic governor credited the state's full budget reserves in allowing the state to weather the storm caused by the COVID-19 pandemic without cutting services. The budget proposal for a two-year period ending in June 2023 makes use of $75 million from the state's rainy day fund.

"If the next administration and legislature choose to cut government services, it'll be based on ideology, not based on necessity," Bullock said during a news conference.

Bullock's proposal includes a year-over-year increase of 1.6% compared with the previous budget.

Republican Gov.-elect Greg Gianforte did not respond to a request for comment from AP on Bullock's proposal. Gianforte, who will be Montana's first Republican governor in 16 years, campaigned on a promise to cut taxes and hold the line on government spending.

Reached by Lee Newspapers, Gianforte transition team spokeswoman Brooke Stroyke said Gianforte will examine Bullock's proposal. The incoming governor's budget amendments are due Jan. 7.

"With state spending increasing by 60% over the last 10 years, Governor-elect Gianforte thinks it's critical to hold the line on new state spending. He looks forward to reviewing the proposed budget in full," Stroyke said.

Bullock said he did not consult with Gianforte before releasing his budget proposal.

Gianforte can make changes to the budget proposal when he assumes office in January, before the proposal is considered by the Republican-controlled legislature.

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