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Budget Debate Dominates Legislature’s First Day

Soon after the 2011 Montana Legislature convened Monday, top Republican and Democratic leaders immediately began staking out their respective battle lines over state budget issues.

Top leaders of the Republican majorities in the House and Senate called for cutting the state general fund budget by $360 million, or nearly 10 percent, over the next two years to bring the amount of money that the state spends into alignment with what it raises in taxes.

They said it’s clear that more government spending has not created more job opportunities for Montanans.

Democrats, however, countered that Gov. Brian Schweitzer’s $3.7 billion, two-year spending plan shows the state budget can be balanced without requiring cuts of such magnitude. Schweitzer’s budget relies heavily on one-time transfers of money and other funding shifts and counts on a surplus by mid-2013 that is $100 million more than what a bipartisan legislative committee adopted.

The budget debate overshadowed the traditional opening ceremonies in the House and Senate, where new members were sworn in as their families and friends watched and took photographs.

via Budget debate overshadows ceremony on Legislature’s first day Billings Gazette

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