HELENA – It's only the third week of the Montana legislature in 2019, but the majority of Republicans – and the Democrats – have come up with two important financial bills, saying that they are quick in basic programs where they agree want.
The Montana House voted 97: 3 on Wednesday to endorse a two-year inflationary $ 78 million increase in public funding for public schools.
And on Tuesday, in another two-party vote, the House Appropriations Committee approved a two-year salary increase of $ 21 million for state and university employees – the same day the panel held its first hearing on the bill.
"Never before," said Eric Feaver, president of the Montana Federation of Public Employees, the union representing thousands of government employees and school teachers. "Remarkable, and very partisan."
Representative Julie Dooling, R-Helena, told MTN News Wednesday that the Republican leadership has asked her to pay the payroll rate, which is usually sponsored by Democrats and sometimes by Republicans until late in the session as political football is held.
"These are important issues that we need to address now," she said of her bill and the school funding measure. "And the longer you wait, the more hostility can form between the two (party) factions. Let's do that now and disclose it. "
The tariff plan, which will raise 50 cents per hour for state employees in 2020 and 2021, will now be put to the vote in plenary session of the House.
The Republicans have majorities both in the House and in the Senate and are essentially controlling the budgeting process at this point in the four-month session.
The Education Act was approved unanimously by the House Education Committee last week. After the voting result from Wednesday to House Bill 159 it goes again to the House Appropriations Committee.
However, sponsor Rep. Bruce Grubbs, R-Bozeman, pointed out Wednesday that Republicans are determined to postpone it quickly.
"We wanted to get it to the ground as soon as possible," he said. "This is an essential part of school funding, and school districts are waiting for these numbers to work with their budgets next year."
The law will increase public funding for public schools by 0.9 percent in the coming school year and by 1.8 percent next year.
House Minority Leader Casey Schreiner, D-Great Falls, voted in favor of the bill on Wednesday, but noted that it does not contain some important elements of the democratic government. Steve Bullock's education proposals, such as money for pre-school education and an inflationary increase special education.
"In the future, I would urge this body to ensure that all other parts are treated with the same brevity and that we also get them across the ground as quickly as possible," he said.
Feaver said he also hopes that other parts of the education system will be duly taken into account.
He said, however, that the early movement in terms of salary increase and basic funding of schools are a welcome relief from previous sessions when the payroll for employees sometimes failed.
"I am very happy that from the beginning the legislature is ready to acknowledge that it has some basic funding requirements to fulfill," Feaver told MTN News. "Let our basic government functions work and you know they are funded.
"That's good, it's a good republican thing, it's a good democratic thing."