The Montana House passed its budget early on St. Patrick's Day and Republican Party leaders believe it can now pass through the Senate relatively unchanged.

“We decided that we would take more of the hit in terms of making some of the tough decisions over here in the house so that by the time it got to the Senate, they were not in a position where they had to either cut more or add a lot back in,” said House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nancy Ballance. “I think the Senate would also tell you that the budget we are sending them is pretty clean and pretty close to where we need to be and I would not expect a lot of big changes over in the Senate.

Ballance says there is one major thing the Senate will need to do, and that is to fill a 10 million dollar hole in Medicaid Services pertaining to senior and long-term care.

“Back in January there was 10 million dollars that had come back into the state that was Medicaid money returned from the federal government, which our government basically made available to the highway department, and we want that money back," Ballance said. "We’re holding firm on that, we want it back in Medicaid where it belongs, so we’ve left that 10 million dollar hole that has to be filled.”

Ballance says once the Highway Department gets its matching funds from the federal government it can easily fill the 10 million dollar hole. According to Ballance, house and senate leadership met twice a week throughout the budgeting process, so there shouldn’t be any big surprises.

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