MATT GOURAS Associated Press Writer
HELENA Republicans added three new budget bills to the mix this morning, the latest in partisan gamesmanship that includes plans to cut social services spending to just $300. House Republicans are waging a fight to preserve their budget plans which include separate budget bills for the first time in 30 years. They have even said they are willing to slash the Department of Public Health and Human Services budget by $3 billion to basically zero in order to advance their agenda. That move could come later today. The GOP pushed three new budget bills through a committee this morning. The bills don’t change any content from previous Republican plans. Republican leaders worried that one of their original six spending bills might have been broad enough to allow Senate Democrats to force the governor’s original spending proposal into it. Republicans, fighting Democrats who want to resuscitate House Bill 2 Gov. Brian Schweitzer’s budget decided they need to split one bill into three new bills. The measures cover the budgets of the governor’s office, the judicial branch and the legislative branch. Testimony was brief in the House Appropriations Committee. Supreme Court Chief Justice Karla Gray, arguing for full time secretaries in some rural courts, pleaded with the Republican-controlled panel to restore funding in the judiciary and save it from partisan fights. “You are currently locked in a battle among yourselves and for some of you with the executive,” Gray told the panel. “The judicial branch should not be made a party to those battles.” The new Republican spending bills are House bills 818-820. The DPHHS budget is House Bill 808.