Posted: Apr 13, 2013 7:50 PM by MTN News
It was a day of wheeling and dealing at the capitol as the Montana Senate passed the state's budget.
As Senators took to the floor it quickly became evident that both parties were cutting deals in order to come up with a compromise on House Bill 2, the state's budget.
Republicans successfully cut 500 jobs from state government saving about $40 million this budget cycle. These positions are currently not filled and would not result in any layoffs.
Democrats also got something out of the deal. The Senate voted to restore $5 million in Title X Family Planning money.
When it came down to the final vote 32 Senators voted yes and 18 Senators voted no.
Majority Leader Art Wittich (R - Bozeman) was one of the 18 Republican Senators who voted no saying the budget is still too expensive and the growth of government is out of control.
"The bad news is that we have spent a whole lot of money," Wittich said on the floor. "Government feeds itself and the people get the scraps."
In total the state budget spends about $9 billion in state and federal spending. But the Democrats who all supported it say the spending is critical for the welfare of Montana.
Senate Minority Leader Jon Sesso (D - Butte) says the budget is step forward.
"The state budget provides essential services and programs that have been asked for by the citizens of our state," Sesso said.
The 11 Republicans who joined with Democrats in passing House Bill 2 believe a compromise in the middle was the key to a balanced solution.
Chairman of the Senate Finance and Claims committee Rick Ripley (R - Wolf Creek) says he knows the size of government is growing every year, but they have big issues they need to address like fixing the pension system, paying state employees, and dealing with healthcare reform.
"We put a little [money] in, we took a little [money] out. Everybody has their own areas, their sacred cow that we have to protect, and it's everybody. We were all that way," Ripley said. "And maybe that's the way it should be because we all represent different constituents."
Even with 32 Senators voting yes on the budget Governor Steve Bullock (D) is still threatening a veto.
He issued this statement saying, "The budget passed by the Senate doesn't fund the critical programs needed to keep Montanans safe or to make our economy grow. They've failed to fund necessary services that keep criminals behind bars, fund the nurses and doctors needed to help Montanans with disabilities or who are in crisis or ensure that we invest in job creation. The budget is unacceptable and, barring changes, I'll be forced to veto it."
The budget now heads back to the House where Representatives will vote on the changes that the Senate made.