Senate Finance & Claims met on Tuesday to take executive action on HB 2. You can find all the amendments online here (third tab). The Legislative Fiscal Division also updated its budget narrative with actions from Finance & Claims. Here is a quick overview of some of the key actions taken.
Dept. of Public Health and Human Services. The committee restored the $14.9 million legislative cut to senior & long-term care (SLTC) division, which provides Medicaid services to seniors and individuals with disabilities who are living in their homes or in nursing homes. A third of this restoration was a shift in funds from Health Resources Division, which provides Medicaid services. SLTC division is still $11.6 million below the executive budget. The committee also reduced the vacancy savings required by the Department from 8% to 6%.
Office of Commissioner of Higher Education. All in all, the higher education budget is largely in the same spot as it was when it passed out of the House. Legislators moved amendments to restore the deep cuts to the universities, but those amendments failed. To date, higher education is still about $11 million below the executive budget, and university officials are indicating we are likely to see 18 percent increases to tuition if the levels of funding remain where they are now. Despite those persisting cuts to higher education, the funding formula for community colleges was fixed to reflect a slight increase in the state’s share of the formula.
Office of Public Instruction. Legislators moved an amendment to add an investment for preschool programs, but it failed on a party-line vote. However, the committee did pass amendments to provide an inflationary adjustment for special education funding (albeit smaller than previously proposed), and restored funding for both the Montana Digital Academy and the Data for Achievement payment. However, in total, OPI’s budget was reduced by approximately $13 million over the biennium.
Dept. of Labor & Industry. Department of Labor & Industry saw restorations, including state special revenue funds added back for Jobs for Montana Graduates Program, which provides graduation support and job training for high school students across Montana. The Committee also restored some funds for the Employment Relations Division, which is good news for workplace safety in Montana.
Dept. of Military Affairs. The Committee restored some funds within the Department of Military Affairs, including support for Air National Guard and Army National Guard. However, the Committee did not restore the funds provided to help train local emergency response teams handling hazardous material disasters and cleanup.