Posted: Mar 7, 2013 7:19 PM by Marnee Banks - MTN News
HELENA - The state's budget is starting to take shape, and one of the issues discussed on Wednesday was the largest part of the equation, the Department of Public Health & Human Services.
The numbers add up to $2 billion, including state and federal funding, which DPHHS uses to provide health insurance for low-income Montanans, food for the hungry, and services for the disabled.
DPHHS officials are asking the Montana House budget committee to reinstate a handful of programs that were previously cut. The most controversial item on the list is the Title X Family Planning money.
About 25,000 Montanans use Title X every year for reproductive healthcare services, including breast and cervical cancer screenings, but Republicans have voted to cut the funding because of their stance on abortion.
Public Health & Safety Division administrator Jane Smilie said, "It helps women and men make good decisions about their health and plan their families, when they are ready to have children and create a stable home environment."
MT State Representative Ron Ehli (R-Hamilton) said, "If you go look at some of the sites for some of the providers that receive this money, they point-blank talk about the fact that they provide abortions. However, the state and the providers both say they can not and do not use the money for abortions."
Planned Parenthood Advocates of Montana director Stacy Anderson said, "I know Planned Parenthood is likely the target of why this money is being taken out. I can appreciate that. I am not blind to the calls I get in my office and what I see on social media. But who this really hurts are the men and women who have no where else to go. They don't have insurance, they are under-insured."
Budget Chairman Duane Ankney (R-Colstrip) says this portion of the budget is just one of five the committee will tackle in the next few days.
"I want to see a final product that really serves the people of Montana. And I'd be lying if I didn't say I want to see a final product that I can get across the House floor," Ankney said. That means Ankney says it needs to be conservative.
DPHHS is also asking for more money for the Montana Developmental Center in Boulder and 13 more full-time employees for their Child & Protective Services Division.
The House Appropriations Committee will tackle the Department of Corrections budget on Thursday and then education funding on Friday. They hope to send the budget to the House floor first thing next week.