Senate Gives Budget Boost
A Montana Senate committee voted Thursday to give additional funding to schools and the public defender's office while restoring some money to the state Department of Revenue to better serve taxpayers and collect revenue.
The Senate Finance and Claims Committee voted 18-1 to pass a $10.3 billion budget for the next two years. The bill advances to the full Senate.
Committee members voted to add $6.25 million to the education budget to account for an increased number of public school students and the opening of new high schools in East Helena and Laurel, for total spending of just over $2 billion.
They rejected an amendment seeking $22 million for a preschool program after the bill authorizing the program — which is strongly endorsed by Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock — was tabled in the House Education Committee on Wednesday.
Lawmakers added $2 million to the Office of Public Defender, for total funding of $74.5 million, and they still weren't sure if that would be enough.