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Proposed Montana state budget cuts slash services, personnel - KXLH.com | Helena, Montana

Proposed Montana state budget cuts slash services, personnel

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Gov. Steve Bullock Gov. Steve Bullock
HELENA -

From tax collectors to correctional reforms to medical services for the poor, the $200-plus million in proposed budget cuts submitted late Friday would slash state programs and lay off state workers across Montana.

“Some very tough decisions are going to be made over the coming weeks and months as I work to responsibly balance our budget,” Gov. Steve Bullock said in a statement as his office released the proposals Friday evening.

State agencies submitted the proposals on Bullock’s order, to cut up to 10 percent of their spending. Some level of cuts will be needed to balance a state budget facing red ink because of escalating firefighting costs and tax revenue falling well short of projections.

State Budget Director Dan Villa said late last month that the administration needs to cut state spending by as much as $230 million to keep the current two-year budget in balance.

Under state law, the governor can order cuts of up to 10 percent for most state agencies, to balance the budget. Any cuts beyond that level would require a special session of the Legislature.

State agencies had until Friday to submit their proposals, which now will be reviewed by legislative staff and committees. Bullock, a Democrat, then will decide where to make the cuts, probably in October.

Some of the proposed cuts include:

Public Health and Human Services

  • More than $100 million in services and payments by Medicaid, the state-federal program that pays medical bills for the poor.

These cuts would eliminate case management for children’s mental health services, eliminate a prescription drug program for the elderly, eliminate a program for developmentally disabled infants and toddlers, and eliminate high-cost dental procedures.

Payments would be reduced for some hospitals, clinics, durable medical equipment and orthodontia.

  • Require many employees to take unpaid furloughs or work reduced hours.
  • Leave open 9 percent to 11 percent of vacant positions in several divisions within the Department of Public Health and Human Services.

Corrections

  • Cut or eliminate several programs and budgets to implement sweeping criminal-justice reforms passed by the 2017 Legislature – programs meant to reduce the prison population by helping offenders stay out of prison.
  • Expand the reach of a new law that would reduce the number of low-risk offenders on probation supervision, to save $6.5 million.
  • Cut payments to many private correctional contractors – although the reduction could violate contracts or eliminate various programs needed for inmates at these facilities.

Revenue Department

  • Lay off as many as 116 positions, most of which would be in the property-tax and business-tax collection and assessment divisions, for a savings of more than $6.5 million. However, officials said the cuts could negative affect tax-revenue collection.
  • Leave vacant 13.5 positions that help citizens with tax questions.

University system

  • Cut funding for college campuses by $34 million, which would likely lead to layoffs and program cuts at the various campuses.
  • Cut financial aid for students by $1.9 million.

Public schools

  • Reduce block grants to public schools by $6 million.

About Mike Dennison

MTN Chief Political Reporter Mike Dennison joined MTN News in August 2015 after a 23-year career as a newspaper reporter covering Montana politics and state government. While some may believe that politics are boring, Mike firmly believes that's not the case if you tell the story with pizzazz and let people know why the story is important.
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