GOP Budget Bill Fails in the Senate; Leaders Are Optimistic

Posted on April 12, 2011

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By CODY BLOOMSBURG

HELENA — The GOP main budget hit a wall first thing Tuesday morning as the Senate deadlocked 25-25 on the final, confirming vote. The hitch may not kill the measure, but it could delay getting it  to Gov. Brian Schweitzer by at least a day.

The House, on the other hand, passed the budget 54-44. shortly after it failed in the Senate.

House Bill 2, which includes much of the state’s general fund spending for the next two years , squeaked by the Senate 26-24 on in its initial vote Monday, but by Tuesday morning Sen. Art Wittich, R-Bozeman, decided to change his vote and oppose the measure.

He said it was the money added back into the budget by a joint House-Senate conference committee made him changes his mind.

“We should be taking money out of the budget, not adding money back in,” Wittich said.

The Senate will reconsider its vote on Wednesday. Wittich said he won’t vote for the bill but believes it will pass regardless.

The two other Republicans to vote against the budget were Sen. Greg Hinkle, R-Thompson Falls, and Sen. Ed Walker, R-Billings.

Walker said he voted against the plan because it inadequately funds K-12 education. He also said he will not change his vote.

Hinkle said he voted against the plan because it spent too much, but he did not guarantee he would stay against it.

Senate President Jim Peterson said he didn’t think HB2 was dead, and that the vote would eventually come to send it to the governor.

Schweitzer said that once the bill gets there he will look at it, but it still holds major flaws in his eyes. His proposed budget would have spent more for on social programs for the poor, sick and elderly, and for higher education.

While the overall spending isn’t that far off, about 1 percent difference between his plan and the GOP’s, the Legislature’s plan refuses about $100 million in federal money and the governor still questions some of the fund transfers used in it.

– Reporter Cody Bloomsburg can be reached at 208-816-0809 or by e-mail at crbloomsburg@hotmail.com

Posted in: Daily Grind