1

$10B state budget passes 1st vote in Montana Senate

(UM Legislative News Service) The bill that funds state agencies for the next two years passed its initial vote in the Montana Senate 27-22 Thursday, with only a few changes to the $10 billion budget.

The Senate added an additional $12.3 million to the budget that the House passed with a 54-45 vote last month. Sen. Ryan Osmundson, R-Buffalo, carried House Bill 2 in the Senate, and says the refined budget came with necessary compromises.

“It’s a good budget. It’s not a perfect budget, but it’s a good budget. There are a lot of fingerprints on this from both sides of the aisle,” Osmundson said.

Most amendments died during the Senate debate, but one amendment to the state health department budget—the biggest chunk of additional spending—passed 27-21. Sen. Tom Jacobson, D-Great Falls, voted for the amendment that would use excess medical marijuana tax and fee revenue, about $6.1 million,  to fund peer support groups for adults to help with substance abuse or mental illness.

“We’ve ended up with a little bit of extra money in that special revenue account. I think this is a great use for that. It doesn’t cost us anything at the bottom line,” he said. “We are able to move money out of one account and do some good things for other folks.”

The Senate Finance and Claims Committee also added $1 million for the state public defender’s office. An amendment was introduced in the House by Rep. Zach Brown, D-Bozeman, to provide additional funding to the office, but it was voted down 42-58.

The bill faces one more vote before passing the Senate.

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