Posted: Jan 12, 2011 4:00 PM by Beth Saboe (KPAX News)
Updated: Jan 12, 2011 9:13 PM
HELENA- House Republicans are being accused by Democrats of giving a pay raise to legislators after voting to slash the state budget.
The GOP-controlled House gave second-reading approval to House Bill 1, a spending bill that pays for the cost of running the 2011 Legislature, on Wednesday afternoon.
Included in the measure was additional money for state healthcare benefits the lawmakers receive.
All 32 House Democrats voted against the measure, saying it equated to a pay increase for legislators. They also argued that it was wrong to increase funding for the Legislature after cutting state programs for the elderly and poor.
Republicans say the passage of HB 1 was routine housekeeping. House GOP Communications Director Chris Shipp says overall, the "feed bill" is a 4% reduction from 2009 and therefore, works out to be a budget cut.
Montana Republican Party Executive Director Bowen Greenwood said Representative Mike Miller, (R-Helmville), tried to amend the bill to cut spending even further by reducing legislator salaries by 5 percent.
However, Article 5 Section 5 of the Montana Constitution forbids any legislature from setting it's own compensation.
"It is constitutionally not possible for Legislators to have voted themselves a pay raise, and Democrat claims to the contrary demonstrate ignorance of the constitution," Greenwood stated.
You can view HB1 by clicking here.