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On final day, Montana Legislature passes $10B state budget

(UM Legislative News Service) On the final day of the 66th Montana Legislature, lawmakers completed their only constitutionally mandated task by passing the bill that sets the budget for state agencies with a 73-to-25 vote.

The House of Representatives voted one last time on House Bill 2 Thursday, this time to adopt Senate amendments that add about $12.3 million of state money to the $10 billion budget, with the biggest chunk of added spending going into the state health department.

Rep. Tom Burnett, R-Bozeman, voted against the bill, which uses a mix of state and federal money, saying it spends too much.

“House Bill 2 may be as good as divergent opinions allow it to be. But remember the Mark Twain quote: ‘No man’s life, liberty or property are safe while the Legislature is in session,’” he said.

Rep. Nancy Ballance, R-Hamilton, who sponsored the bill, said balancing a state budget is a huge undertaking, but any member of the Legislature can contribute to the process.

“Anyone in this chamber can bring a change, an amendment — can participate in this process. If you choose not to, you get what you see,” Ballance said.

Democratic Governor Steve Bullock needs to sign the bill before it can be adopted.

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.

Watch Missoula Current later tonight for a longer report on the Legislature’s final day and adjournment.