That would raise the threshold from the current level of $20,000, and puts him at odds with Republicans who would prefer to reduce the rate for all sizes of business.
Bullock is embracing the proposal to accept the federal money for the expansion of Medicaid that is part of federal healthcare reform — a potential sticking point with Republican legislative leaders. The proposal only costs the state about $5 million this biennium to extend Medicaid coverage to 80,000 more Montanans.
Incoming Senate President Jeff Essmann of Billings said he has, in general, been strongly opposed to the idea of accepting more federal money because he argues it could evaporate in the future and leave the state paying the bills.
"I think my number one priority is to have a conservative budget that does not increase its reliance on a funding source, the federal government, that is very much in doubt," Essmann said a day earlier.
Essmann said he remained "optimistic" about finding common ground with Bullock.
But both sides have said they want to make an effort to reach consensus on sticky issues. Bullock said he thinks his proposal, which leaves a projected surplus of $300 million compared to the $400 million planned by Schweitzer, is appropriately conservative.
The Medicaid expansion is included in a Bullock health care program that includes adding more state support for training doctors, and would increase payments to doctors and hospitals as a way of appeasing a group that has long argued the government isn't reimbursing enough to stay involved with state programs.
Bullock also massaged a plan to borrow money to build more college buildings, and idea similar to one that failed two years ago despite some bipartisan support and the backing of contractors.
A sticking point in Schweitzer's proposed pensions fix, which asks both employees and their government employers to pay more into the beleaguered system, was that local governments didn't want to pay more. Bullock said he convinced them to support the idea after offering more natural resource revenue to help foot the bill.
The education funding increase still includes plan for a college tuition freeze, a plan that not only faces the Legislature but also the Board of Regents.