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Subcommittee Vote Restores $1 Billion To Draft DPHHS Budget

Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services
Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services

Montana lawmakers added $1 billion back into a preliminary outline of the state health department’s biennial budget. The lawmakers overseeing state health finances voted unanimously to restore the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services budget.

This current budget is still an ongoing draft — meaning it is not final — but the vote did raise the "jumping-off" figure that will be used in future negotiations.

In early January, Republican lawmakers used their majority in a party-line vote in a House appropriations subcommittee to change the numbers. Their vote meant lawmakers would start crafting DPHHS' budget using the amount the agency spent in 2019 instead of 2020.

The change would have meant the department’s future budget could have had roughly $1 billion less to spend on services for seniors and people with disabilities than it did in 2020. Republicans at the time said they planned to add some of that funding back into the budget. 

The chair of the committee, Republican Rep. Matt Regier, said that process helped lawmakers understand the agency better.

“I do think going through this whole session so far, that it has been very helpful to myself to see more of a history of the department and their spending year by year," he said.

Democratic Rep. Mary Caferro said she is grateful the committee restored the starting point motion. Her caucus was concerned the department would've seen significant budget cuts if the 2019 figure had been used. 

“This committee and the Legislature's a complicated process, especially this legislative session, and so it seemed important to let the public know what they were potentially up against with the cut," Caferro said.

With the baseline spending outlined, lawmakers on the health department subcommittee will begin voting on more specific amendments to the agency’s budget Friday morning.

Copyright 2021 Montana Public Radio. To see more, visit Montana Public Radio.

Shaylee is a UM Journalism School student. She reports and helps produce Montana Evening News on MTPR.