Montana House passes $10.3 billion state budget

Nancy Ballance, R-Hamilton, says Thursday that House Bill 2, or the budget bill, is a very tight bill, and asked the House to accept the Senate amendments. The House gave preliminary approval of the amendments on a 60-40 vote. (Freddy Monares/UM Legislative News Service)

By Cole Grant/UM Legislative News Service

HELENA – The Montana statewide, two-year budget needs just one more vote to get to Governor Steve Bullock’s desk.

Thursday, the Montana House of Representatives voted to concur with the Senate’s amendments to House Bill 2. That doesn’t happen very often.

Rep. Nancy Ballance, R-Hamilton, said she isn’t sure when the last time the House approved amendments to the budget without taking it to a conference committee. A conference committee is made up of members from both houses who sort out discrepancies.

“We met with the Senate prior to them taking up any amendments,” Ballance said. “Made sure they understood that we believe that budget was as complete as we could get it, and asked them to keep it within the bounds that we had set in filling the major holes, and that is exactly what they did.”

Earlier this month, the Senate added more than $53 million to the $10.3 billion budget. Of the Senate’s additions, nearly $19 million came from the state’s general fund.

House Minority Leader Jenny Eck, D-Helena voted against the amendments.

“I think we need to start talking about this more clearly, and more regularly, and articulating the choices that are being made session in and session out to protect the super wealthy and out of state corporations at the expense of working people in the state,” Eck said.

The motion passed 60-40 on mainly party lines.

Cole Grant is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association and the Greater Montana Foundation.