Posted: Mar 19, 2013 10:36 AM by Marnee Banks - MTN News
HELENA - In a historic moment, the Montana House of Representatives unanimously passed the state's budget without amending one line.
Lawmakers began debate on House Bill 2 at 8 a.m. Tuesday and were done by 9:30 a.m. Normally, it's a process that can take all day and sometimes even two, but legislators said they wanted to send a message of bipartisanship.
The bill's sponsor and chairman of the House budget committee ,Representative Duane Ankney (R - Colstrip), called the process unprecedented.
"Somehow we got to this point and it's because we all care about Montana," Ankney testified on the House floor.
In total, the bill spends $9 billion in state and federal spending addressing all parts of state government, including education, health and human services and corrections.
Vice chair of the House budget committee Representative Galen Hollenbaugh (D - Helena) urged Democrats to vote yes on the budget and send Montana a strong message.
"We could not have gotten here without working together," Hollenbaugh testified.
On Monday, the Speaker of the House Mark Blasdel (R - Somers) and Minority Leader Chuck Hunter (D- Helena) told the Montana Television Network that both caucuses were planning to amend House Bill 2. Republicans wanted to cut some programs, and Democrats wanted to add a few back in.
But by 8:15 a.m. Tuesday, it was evident a deal had been struck and both sides agreed to pass the budget as proposed.
"You can do this in a bipartisan way," Ankney said in an interview after the vote. "It ain't always your way. It ain't always the majority's way. You gotta bend a little bit."
Hollenbaugh says there are things that Democrats would like to see put back into the budget, but they will trust the process and fight for those items as the budget moves to the Montana Senate.