AP NEWS

The Latest: Montana panel approves $10.3B state budget

March 11, 2019

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — The Latest on Montana’s two-year budget bill (all times local):

5:10 p.m.

A Montana House committee has advanced a nearly $10.3 billion budget to fund state services over the next two years.

The committee’s budget, which will see some changes, is nearly $28 million less than Gov. Steve Bullock proposed.

Lawmakers on the House Appropriations Committee made several amendments to sections of the funding bill Monday and the overall bill passed 16-6. It now goes to the full House.

In one amendment, the state Auditor’s Office eliminated seven vacant positions at a savings of just over $1 million, but asked for permission to spend an additional $350,000 to continue efforts to investigate and challenge the high cost of prescription drugs.

All told, Auditor Matt Rosendale proposed a $650,000 cut to state funding for his office.

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1:45 p.m.

Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee are moving some money around in the state’s next two-year budget, but are resisting Democratic efforts to increase spending.

The committee voted Monday to restore funding for seven vacant positions it proposed cutting from the vocational rehabilitation program and instead cut six unfilled positions from the child support enforcement division.

Lawmakers also moved nearly $16 million into the Children’s Health Insurance Program to make up for reductions in federal funds and a decline in tobacco tax collections.

However, the Republican majority turned down efforts to spend more on education, saying there are separate policy bills to consider inflationary increases to special education spending and funding early childhood education.

Democrats argued the state needs new revenue while Republicans countered Montana has added so many programs revenues can’t keep up.