Republicans reduce state budget starting point

LEWIS AND CLARK COUNTY

Associated Press
POSTED: 11:31 AM Jan 11 2013   UPDATED: 11:38 AM Jan 11 2013
MONTANA LEGISLATURE
HELENA, Mont. -

Republican-led legislative budget panels are axing the standard inflationary increases normally used as a starting point for spending bills.
    
The joint appropriations committees were instead voting Friday to start all agency budgets at 2012 levels. Critics argue the move doesn't ensure there will be enough money to pay for current programs authorized by law.
    
House Speaker Mark Blasdel of Somers says it will be better for lawmakers to determine how much is needed rather than relying on automatic predictions.
    
Blasdel says the automatic inflationary adjustments are worth $335 million out of the state's $10 billion-plus, two-year state budget.
    
The budget committees over the next two months will evaluate new programs proposed by Gov. Steve Bullock, such as a $400-per-homeowner tax rebate and expansion of Medicaid to roughly 80,000 more Montanans.