Posted: Mar 12, 2013 9:18 AM by Marnee Banks - MTN News
HELENA - Montana's budget is now on its way to the full House of Representatives.
Lawmakers worked late into the evening on Monday voting on stacks of amendments to House Bill 2.
It was a lengthy process, and in the end, the budget passed on a party line vote with Democrats voting against it.
The House Appropriations committee went through nearly 100 amendments to the budget.
Vice Chair Galen Hollenbaugh (D-Helena) said despite their lack of votes, Democrats attempted to add programs back into the budget which were previously cut.
"At the beginning of the session they said we are looking forward to getting along, we're going to work with the executive, we're going to work across the aisle," Hollenbaugh explained in an interview. "That just vanished this morning and the partisan lines have been drawn."
Republicans used their majority to oppose most all additions to the budget.
Vice Chair Steve Gibson (R-Helena) pointed out that not all votes fell on party lines, and Republicans did make some concessions.
"I do think as the process goes through, you will some things come back in and you might see some things come out," Gibson said.
In total, House Bill 2, spends about $9 billion in federal and state money.
A veteran on the House Appropriations committee, Representative Bill McChesney (D - Miles City), says Democrats couldn't vote for the final product because there are critical programs which have been entirely cut or underfunded.
"My biggest concern is that we chose to leave Montana's most vulnerable and weakest behind, again, one more time," McChesney said in committee.
They are most concerned about $4.6 million in federal Title X Family Planning money. All but 2 Republicans voted to eliminate this money entirely.
But Chairman Duane Ankney (D - Colstrip) says the Democrats response is discouraging.
"There's a majority and there's a minority and that's just the way it is," Ankney said. "I guess I'm used to working with people that go out, it don't matter if it's 20 below, you put a piece of equipment together, everybody has a different idea about how it goes together, but you get it together. And in the end you focus on the fact that you completed it."
Now the budget goes to the House, then to the Senate Finance Committee and then to the full Senate and then Governor Steve Bullock's (D - MT) desk.