Lawmakers propose slashing health department budget by $93M

By MATT VOLZ, Associated Press

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A legislative panel is proposing to cut the Montana health department's budget by $93 million over the next two years, the largest in a series of deep cuts planned across state agencies.

Republican leaders say the cuts outlined Tuesday and Wednesday are only starting points for budget negotiations, and some money will be re-inserted in the coming weeks.

One Democratic lawmaker says legislators don't fully understand what they are voting to cut. For example, Wednesday's vote by the panel looking at the Department of Public Health and Human Services' budget cut more than $42 million to senior and long-term care programs, without any details about those programs.

Sen. Mary Caferro of Helena also objected to some of Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock's proposed cuts the panel adopted, such as eliminating a contract that provides services to 30 blind children.