The Montana State Capitol in Helena, Mont.

The Montana State Capitol in Helena, Mont.

The special session of the Montana Legislature starts today. Reporters Holly Michels and Erin Loranger will have coverage throughout the session. Follow them on Twitter — @hollykmichels and @eeloranger — for updates.

Don't expect tax increases: The Legislature is coming back to Helena to address a $227 million anticipated shortfall in the state budget. Gov. Steve Bullock's office has proposed plugging the $227 million hole by dividing it into thirds. About $76 million would come from cuts made by the governor to state agencies, another $75 million would come from proposed temporary tax increases and the remaining $76 million would come from a mix of transfers and delayed payments.

But Republicans, who hold a majority in the Legislature, say there is a slim-to-none chance tax-increase proposals will have enough support to clear their caucus, where many campaigned on promises to never increases taxes.

Private prison contract: Friday morning Republicans announced they had enough signatures to expand the scope of a special session set to convene next week, opening it from a narrowly tailored call by Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock.

The wider agenda will include what’s rapidly become a key piece of any deal for Republicans: accepting roughly $30 million from the company that runs a private prison in Shelby in exchange for extending the facility's contract, due to expire in 2019.

School payments: Montana Republicans will likely propose adjusting school payments to even them out across the year, avoiding a spike in payments like the one coming in November.

November's $125 million payment was called into question by budget director Dan Villa in October when he noted the state's general fund had only $87 million. The payment is significantly higher than most school payments, as is a payment in May.

Proposed cuts: Bullock released his proposed list of cuts last week. They affect nearly every state agency. Here's a look at those proposed cuts.

Higher education: The Montana Office of the Commissioner for Higher Education was anticipating a cut as steep as 10 percent, or some $44 million for the biennium, but the governor's proposal spares higher education and calls for a 1.2 percent reduction in the 2018 and 2019 fiscal years.

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