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GOP firm on budget-reduction plans

2011-03-12T00:00:00Z GOP firm on budget-reduction plansBy MIKE DENNISON IR State Bureau Helena Independent Record
March 12, 2011 12:00 am  • 

In the first day of floor debate on the state’s budget, House Republicans Friday held fast on their proposals to cut more than $200 million from state spending the next two years, rejecting all but one Democratic proposal to add back money for programs that serve the aged, the disabled and the poor. 

The only crack in the GOP’s resolve came on the state-owned Montana Veterans Home in Columbia Falls, as 27 Republicans joined all 32 House Democrats to vote to reinstate full funding for the home and reject a proposal to privatize its operation.

The House also voted, by a narrow 53-47 margin, to chop an additional $2.3 million in federal family-planning funds that go to more than a dozen clinics that serve primarily low- and middle-income women.

Debate and votes on House Bill 2, the primary spending bill that sets the state budget for the next two years, continues today and Monday in the full House.

Before and during Friday’s six-hour debate on the HB2, leaders of the Republicans’ 68-32 majority in the House told their members to resist efforts to change a budget crafted by the House Appropriations Committee and its subcommittees, which spent weeks putting together a $3.6 billion plan.

The plan is anywhere from $200 million to $300 million less than what the state will spend in the current biennium, which ends June 30.

“None of these decisions has been easy,” said Rep. Walter McNutt, R-Sidney, the chair of the Appropriations Committee and the sponsor of HB2. “It’s been very difficult. There were people literally in tears making decisions that are tough, especially in the health and human services area.”

Leadership’s advice to stand fast against efforts to change the budget was heeded on nearly every floor vote Friday — including efforts by some Republicans to cut more deeply into the budget.

Rep. Wayne Stahl, R-Saco, led off the day’s debate with an amendment to reduce the number of state employees by another 440 people, cutting $53 million more from the budget.

“When are we going to do the job that we were supposed to do?” Stahl asked. “The taxpayers elected us all to take care of them, not to grow state government. … They wanted us to cut state government.”

But Stahl’s effort failed on a 38-62 vote, supported only by the party’s more conservative members.

Democrats tried two dozen times to amend money back into the bill, including money for a senior citizens’ prescription drug program, home-heating assistance for poor people, senior citizen centers and programs, foster care, and even an energy-development promotion division.

Nearly every time, all but a handful of Republicans voted no.

“We can’t be everything to everybody,” said Rep. John Esp, R-Big Timber, on a proposal to restore full funding for a program that subsidizes prescription drugs for senior citizens. “We have to do the tough choices. We have to make them on this floor today. I urge you to vote no.”

The amendment failed on a 44-55 vote.

House Minority Leader Jon Sesso, D-Butte, seemed to acknowledge at the beginning of debate that his party’s efforts would fail – but said that wouldn’t stop them from trying, both in the House and later in the Senate, which will get the budget next week.

“As we propose changes to this budget, we want you to remember (Montanans who need help), because there is a heart, a soul, a face to the people we represent,” he said. “We can afford to do better and still meet our objectives (of a balanced budget). We have the resources to do better.”

Democrats succeeded only on a proposal to restore some $3 million for the Montana Veterans Home, but not without substantial Republican help.

Rep. Tony Belcourt, D-Box Elder, said the proposal to save money by privatizing operation of the 114-year-old home was presented and approved without enough time for veterans and the public to weigh in.

“A lot of people gave a lot of blood, sweat and tears to protect our freedoms,” he said. “The way it was done in committee wasn’t a fair and accurate way. We owe our veterans more than just looking at this for a week.”

Every Republican from heavily Republican northwest Montana voted for the amendment to restore the home’s funding, as did all 32 Democrats and several other Republicans.

Among them was Rep. Duane Ankney, R-Colstrip, himself a military veteran.

“It’s pretty simple,” Ankney told fellow House members. “You don’t want to care for (veterans), as a taxpayer, then don’t send ’em.”

Copyright 2015 Helena Independent Record. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(10) Comments

  1. The Big L
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    The Big L - March 14, 2011 8:14 am
    What percentage of tasks that planned parenthood does annually are pelvic and breast cancer screenings? What percentage is abortions? I would be interested in knowing the breakdown of what the money goes for.
  2. blkirish
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    blkirish - March 12, 2011 11:03 pm
    DEAR GOP, YOU MAKE ME SICK. 'NUFF SAID.
  3. JSwede
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    JSwede - March 12, 2011 7:47 pm
    Besides the irrelevant comments here about animal shelters that aren't getting any state money it should be noted that the money that the article called "family planning" money was entirely federal money and it went far beyond family planning. It also provided breast and pelvic cancer and other medical screenings
    to women in our state who don't have and cannot afford health insurance. This GOP budget was is cruel and heartless to those who have the least among us. They should be ashamed.
  4. Helena Pedestrian
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    Helena Pedestrian - March 12, 2011 1:13 pm
    I like how the GOP wants to turn down federal money for health care and electronic medical records in some kind of protest against budget deficits. If they are serious they should turn down federal agricultural subsidies too. But wait, many of our own legislators benefit greatly from those subsidies. I've read that Senate President Jim Peterson received more than $600,000 in subsidies over the last 15 years. So it's okay for them to take federal subsidies for their businesses, but money for children's health care and health reforms is just too much!? You need a chainsaw to cut through the hypocrisy of the GOP.
  5. FrankD
    Report Abuse
    FrankD - March 12, 2011 9:45 am

    I pray that some of you who voted against Stahl's ammendment read this post, because if what I'm about to say doesn't make sense then you need to get voted out next go round. I have no problem with cutting the budget. Needs to happen, no way around it. Benjamin Franklin's quote about making it uncomfortable for the poor, I get it. I'm a fan of it, lived it, got the T-shirt, life is better for me because of it. But if we want me to beleive that making it uncomfortable for the poor while condoning the thought of keeping six figure government jobs(53mil/440=120K) on the books, you got another thing coming. This just rubs me wrong all day long, and twice on Liver Tuesday. The voters are mad as hell at you politicians, and it's stuff like this that ticks us off!!!!! Cowards, Cronies, Boot Lickers... makes me just want to puke.

  6. PLG
    Report Abuse
    PLG - March 12, 2011 8:52 am
    As I said before, budget cuts just to make budget cuts and disrupt lives makes little since. The short term outlook is ok as is. This legislature should look to the future and invest in the future. This includes protecting the environment, renewable energy, public transportation to reduce oil usage, education (including the poor) and business development that ensures the previous priorities will not be impacted by the business.
  7. steeline
    Report Abuse
    steeline - March 12, 2011 8:25 am
    4.5 million for a new dog pound for puppies and kitties. Lewis and Clark County. What about our poor children? There needs to be cuts in areas of total nonesense waste and irresponsible spending. Like funding for wolf management and reintroduction. Zero out the money the problem goes away. We have to get America Right.
  8. pamperedpet
    Report Abuse
    pamperedpet - March 12, 2011 8:22 am
    Way to go GOP...throw the elderly and the young under financial bus. But you can vote yourselves in a 5% pay raise. If that had not happened how much more could we afford with the future budget.

    It is strange that people still do not get the concept of preventative medicine. If something can be prevented and treated upfront it is a HELL of a lot cheaper than the long term.

    Republicans pushing the cut, approved on 53-47 vote, argue the money goes to Planned Parenthood for contraceptives and abortions. But it is interesting that the Federal will pay for the same and has since George H Bush under the Medicaid plan. I guess our Legislature would rather take care of someone on Welfare for the child's life (Cash assistance, Food Stamps and Medicaid) rather than explain about the use of contraceptives. WAKEUP GOP.

    I guess Sara Palin had the wrong party when she was talking about (don't remember the exact quote) about killing grandma. Well the GOP is go a good plan in motion for this one.

  9. pamperedpet
    Report Abuse
    pamperedpet - March 12, 2011 8:15 am
    Way to go GOP...throw the elderly and the young under financial bus. But you can vote yourselves in a 5% pay raise. If that had not happened how much more could we afford with the future budget.

    It is strange that people still do not get the concept of preventative medicine. If something can be prevented and treated upfront it is a HELL of a lot cheaper than the long term.

    Republicans pushing the cut, approved on 53-47 vote, argue the money goes to Planned Parenthood for contraceptives and abortions. But it is interesting that the Federal will pay for the same and has since George H Bush under the Medicaid plan. I guess our Legislature would rather take care of someone on Welfare for the child's life (Cash assistance, Food Stamps and Medicaid) rather than explain about the use of contraceptives. WAKEUP GOP.

    I guess Sara Palin had the wrong party when she was talking about (don't remember the exact quote) about killing grandma. Well the GOP is go a good plan in motion for this one.

  10. NativeMontanan
    Report Abuse
    NativeMontanan - March 12, 2011 1:38 am
    Recently $500K was given to an animal shelter. Donations like this could go a long way in helping the senior centers, schools, etc. If it was easier to get private donations to public institutions, a lot more would be given. I don't believe that donations to schools are tax deductable. Make it easy and worth while and money will be available.

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