MATT GOURAS Associated Press Writer
HELENA The alternative budget being worked up by House Republicans slices requests from the prison system, social programs and other areas, according to an early analysis of the plan. Programs such as low energy assistance for the poor or elderly, the governor’s business recruitment office, tribal economic development, methamphetamine treatment and many other initiatives fall under the budget knife, according to the Legislative Fiscal Division analysis. In all, nearly $100 million is sliced from agency budgets that lawmakers had been working on before House Republicans voted last week to kill the governor’s budget. The proposed GOP budget also reworks the state’s school funding system to pave the way for a property tax cut worth more than $300 million. Work on the state budget has been particularly tense this legislative session, with the state looking at a projected surplus of $1 billion over the next two years. The governor submitted a plan late last year that included $150 million in tax relief, including $400-perhomeowner rebates, along with increased spending on education, corrections and other areas. An analysis of the Republican alternative, based on a draft of the budget, shows Republicans cutting back in a number of areas to make way for tax cuts. They are seeking more than $400 million in total tax relief. The Department of Corrections, seeking more money for an expanding prison population and new programs aimed at reforming prisoners, would be among the hardest hit. The GOP budget plan cuts $39.3 million, nearly 12 percent, from the budget lawmakers had been working on before last week. The Department of Commerce was cut by 40 percent, or $8 million. A big chunk also comes from the Department of Public Health and Human Services budget, which was shaved $30.1 million, or 4 percent. The Republican budget is being proposed in a package of bills, instead of the traditional offering of one bill to pay for state g o v e r n m e n t . Democrats allege the tactic will lead to a confusing array of votes that could cause programs to fall through the cracks. Once the House finishes work on the budget, it will go to the Senate, which is controlled by Democrats who prefer Schweitzer’s budget proposal.