Posted: Apr 16, 2013 3:45 PM by Marnee Banks - MTN News
HELENA - Senate Bill 175 passed a second reading in a 60-40 vote on Monday. It would spend just over $50 million on Montana's public school system while providing $1.5 million in property tax relief.
The bill is primarily paid for using the state's general fund, but it also uses oil and gas revenue to help school districts impacted by natural resource development.
Representative Rob Cook (R-Conrad) was one of 21 Republicans who voted for the bill. Cook says it's a compromise between various education groups.
"Senate Bill 175 will once again represent a combination of funding and flexibility. It provides for increased student achievement, property tax relief and impacted district relief," Cook said on the floor. "Those were the three goals we had when we started this session."
The 40 members voting against the bill were all Republicans. Representative Kris Hansen (R-Havre) chairs the House Education Committee, and she says she would have liked to see a more conservative funding formula.
"This directly impacts our ability to pass tax relief, our ability to fund a pay plan, our ability to reform Medicaid, our ability to fund the teacher's pensions and the state employee's pensions," Hansen said. "There is only so much money to go around."
The bill needs to pass one more vote in the House before heading back to the Senate. The Senate has previously endorsed the bill with a large majority.