2013 MT Legislature

Mar 19, 2013 1:50 AM by Marnee Banks (marnee@kxlh.com)

Montana budget debate set to heat up

HELENA - Republicans and Democrats are expected to clash on Tuesday as Montana's state budget moves to the full House of Representatives for a vote.

The state's budget came out of committee with $9 billion in state and federal spending and now as it heads to the House floor, Speaker Mark Blasdel (R-Somers) says Republicans want to pass a conservative budget. So he says there could be some cuts coming.

"We are working with the subcommittee chairs to maybe cut some in some areas where they see need to. Obviously, they are going to be strategic cuts which make sense. We're not going to be coming with large across the board cuts at this time," Blasdel said.

Republicans control the House with a 68-32 majority, so if they vote together, the GOP can cut the budget as they please. But House Minority Leader Chuck Hunter (D-Helena) says he hopes Democrats will find Republicans to vote for some of their amendments to House Bill 2.

"Many of the things that we'll be seeking to do really are more of a shift of money within the budget, than just adding on, and adding on. As I said at the outset, I think the dollar amount in House Bill 2 is really pretty adequate," Hunter explained.

He says one of the biggest priorities for Democrats will be adding $4.6 million in Title X Family Planning money back into the budget. But Blasdel says Republicans will have a hard time voting for it.

"The big issue with Title X funding is that some of it does go to Planned Parenthood, which is an abortion provider. We are still looking at ways that we can make those funds go to common sense medicine practices that women need each and every day, and not to abortions and that's what we are looking at," Blasdel said.

"The reasons that have been supplied to us for why the money is not in there, do not really hold water with us. I would say it's one of the key issues for our caucus," stated Hunter.

Regardless of what gets put back in, and what gets cut, both parties agree the budget debate is sure to be the most important debate they have all session.