Legislative Update: Wednesday, March 8

Hogan

Sheila Hogan

Cuts to health and human services at issue

By Cole Grant

Montana Health and Human Services Director Sheila Hogan is cautioning lawmakers about what decreasing funding to her department might mean for Montanans.

“The budget will dramatically impair the services we provide to seniors, and those with disabilities in Montana, and compromise our ability to serve Montana’s most vulnerable community members,” she said.

The governor’s office says the Legislature’s current budget proposes about $93 million less than its proposal for the agency.

Nancy Ballance, of Hamilton, Republican chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee, says it’s important to differentiate between cuts and a reduction of increases in funding.

“And while it might be somewhat entertaining to listen to you speak about things that are scaring our seniors and scaring our disabled people, that is not what this department has done, and that is not what we intend to do,” she said.

The committee will vote on House Bill 2, or the state budget, Thursday and Friday.

Cole Grant is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association and the Greater Montana Foundation.

Bill would expand bed tax

By Freddy Monares

A bill to include modern-day bed-and-breakfasts in the state’s collection of bed taxes has passed the Montana Senate and will now make its way to the House.

The bed tax, or lodging facility sales and use tax, is collected by hotels, motels and campgrounds. A portion of the money is deposited into the state’s general fund, as well as a state special revenue fund used to promote the state.

Sen. Dee Brown, R-Hungry Horse, is the sponsor of Senate Bill 150, which would expand the definition of “accommodations” to include vacation homes or rooms rented by owners. She says she didn’t sign the fiscal note because it said there would be no impact on the general fund.

“I think there is going to be a slight uptick in bed tax because of people who haven’t been aware of it before,” Brown said.

The House Taxation Committee will hear first testimony on the bill Thursday.

Freddy Monares is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association and the Greater Montana Foundation.

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