Posted: Apr 10, 2013 8:45 AM by Marnee Banks - MTN News
HELENA - Montana's budget is now headed to the Senate floor, even though both political parties are a bit disappointed in the final product. The Senate Finance and Claims Committee barely passed House Bill 2 late Tuesday evening in an 11-9 vote.
Some Democrats voted against the bill because of cuts to health and human services and education programs. Minority Leader Jon Sesso (D - Butte) says Democrats are preparing to make amendments to the budget on the Senate floor.
"There are certainly some things that gotta be put back in," Sesso said in an interview after the vote. "The cuts that were made have got to be resurrected because I think they are going to have too great of an effect on the operation of our government."
A handful of Republicans also voted against HB 2 because they say it spends too much money. It total it spends about $9 billion in state and federal money. Chairman Rick Ripley ( R - Wolf Creek) says a lot of the issues being discussed are emotionally charged, so he understands both parties' consternation.
"I don't think that anyone is entirely happy and that was indicated on the vote here this evening," Ripley said in a one on one interview. "There are many Republicans who would like to see a leaner, meaner budget."
Ripley says he was just thankful they had enough votes in the middle to pass the budget and keep it moving along in the process.
Senate President Jeff Essmann (R - Billings) was among the nine legislators who voted no.
"I can't support a budget with this level of increased spending, especially a budget where ongoing spending is pumped up with one-time only money. We will have to do our best on the floor to get our spending under control or the taxpayers will be at risk," Essmann said in a statement.
It's unknown how leadership's frustration with the budget will impact the vote on the Senate floor.
"There are some hard, hard votes coming up," Ripley said.
Ripley says House Bill 2 will likely come before the full Senate for a vote early next week.