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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Proposed State Budget Cuts 'Dangerously Deep' Says Montana DPHHS Director

Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services

Leaders of the state health department say the budget state lawmakers are crafting for them is, at this point, dangerously under-funded.

Sheila Hogan, Director of Montana’s Department of Health and Human Services warned legislators during a budget committee hearing Wednesday, that cutting funding from the health department could impact care for seniors and people with disabilities.

"The implications of this legislatively proposed budget are dangerously deep, and cuts straight to the bone of our ability to serve Montana’s most vulnerable," Hogan said.

The section of the health department's budget that funds long-term care for senior citizens and people with disabilities is currently looking at a roughly 10 percent cut proposal. That's means the department would have $36 million less than it spent in the last biennium to provide care.

"These cuts have profound consequences, whether intended or not on both the real lives of the individuals who receive services and our local economy," said Hogan.

Republicans on the budget committee cautioned against reactionary and vague statements related to the budget. Representative Nancy Ballance, from Hamilton, chairs the budget committee:

"When we start talking about cuts and scaring our vulnerable citizens by telling them they are not going to get services, I want to be as accurate as we can possibility be," Ballance said. "Yes you will see some decreases in here, but not to the degree you just heard. And I want to make sure that is absolutely clear."

Lawmakers are looking to find savings in the state budget amid declines in state revenues from coal, oil and gas sales.

The budget is not final and won’t be ready for a vote by the full House of Representatives for at least a week.

Travis Hoffman from Missoula, who uses a wheelchair, told lawmakers that some of the currently outlined levels of funding could impact his way of life.

"Services provided by DPHHS allow me to go to the bathroom take a shower, put my pants on, get in my chair. And because I have those services I can work. I was able to go to school. I am able to have a life. If some of these things go through that be possible for me and thousands of other individuals with disabilities and older adults across Montana."

The budget committee will vote on the DPHHS budget Friday morning.

Corin Cates-Carney manages MTPR’s daily and long-term news projects. After spending more than five years living and reporting across Western and Central Montana, he became news director in early 2020.
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