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Bullock asks Legislature for 'responsible' budget

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 30, 2013 at 11:50 pm •  Published: January 30, 2013
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Bullock also made his case for the politically charged request to expand Medicaid for up to 70,000 uninsured Montanans. The state would have to pay a small fraction of the cost if it agreed to accept federal health care overhaul money for the expansion. He argued the uninsured rely on costly emergency room care, leaving unpaid bills that are often passed onto paying customers with higher prices.

If Montana doesn't take the federal money, Bullock said, it would just go to other states who will take it.

"It's time we set the politics aside on this issue. Politics won't treat diabetes. Extremism won't create jobs. And intransigence won't provide health care for those who can't afford it," Bullock said with a line that like several others drew loud applause from Democrats and silence from Republicans.

The Democrat and Republican leaders have been at odds on tax cut plans.

The Democrat argued his $400-per-homeowner property tax rebate is better than an across-the-board percentage cut because more of it goes to average Montanans. He said the same for a business equipment tax cut that eliminates the levy on the state's 11,000 businesses with less than $100,000 in equipment — but leaves it in place for bigger companies.

In both cases, Republicans are seeking tax cuts that reduce the rate for most everyone.

"If you take the $100 million and use it to cut property taxes instead, the average Montana homeowner would receive just $44 this year, not $400. Think about that," said Bullock, who argued one of the largest out-of-state companies with property in Montana would get a $1 million tax break.

Knudsen, the Republican attorney from the northeastern corner of Montana, said tax breaks should not be restricted just to homeowners, and should be permanent.

"Republicans agree that we should find opportunities to return excess revenues to Montana taxpayers," he said. "Every single Montanan deserves tax relief. No one should be left out."