Montana Public Radio

Bullock Opposes Montana Legislature's Plan To Cut Vacant Health Care Jobs

Mar 7, 2019

Gov. Steve Bullock’s administration is objecting to the Legislature’s initial plan to cut funding for around 230 open job positions across Montana government in the next state budget.

The state’s $4.3 billion general fund budget is first up for debate as lawmakers arrive back in Helena for the second half of the 2019 legislative session.

During the first half, lawmakers trimmed Gov. Bullock’s proposed budget by 0.8 percent, or nearly $33 million.

Gov. Bullock’s Budget Director Tom Livers says he has concerns over the Legislature's proposal to permanently eliminate certain vacant job positions.

Livers says the budget shortfall following the last legislative session forced agencies to keep a greater number of job positions open in order to save money.

He told the House Appropriations Committee Thursday that removing the positions altogether could limit potential government services that are already struggling.

“It guarantees longer wait times, lack of local service providers. Slower processing across state government.”

When a state job is held vacant it remains funded, although not at 100 percent.

Republicans and some Democrats in the Legislature supported the idea of cutting funding for some of those openings in the state health department to fund other services, like the Children’s Health Insurance Program and a pay-rate increase for providers that care for people with disabilities, mental health issues and the elderly.

Around 100 of the proposed cuts in vacant positions are in the state health department.

“The 100 FTEs have been open for a year or more,” says Republican Rep. Eric Moore, who chaired the subcommittee that reviewed the state health department’s budget.

He says the 100 positions proposed to be cut are out of around 400 vacant jobs current in the health department.

The Department of Public Health and Human Services Director Sheila Hogan and disability services providers also expressed concern to lawmakers Thursday about proposed position reductions within the agency.

The House Appropriations Committee is expected to take an initial vote on the state budget package early next week.