This morning, March 19, the Montana House of Representatives passed House Bill 2, a.k.a the budget bill, with a unanimous vote.

All 39 Democrats and 61 Republicans voted for the budget, in a rare sign of bipartisan support.

"Never before have I seen such bipartisan support for H.B. 2 and certainly never have we had 100 votes on H.B. 2," said Legislative Fiscal Division Director Amy Carlson who has been following state budgets for 20 years. "Last session was a high H.B. 2 vote, it was 65 on the house floor and I felt that to be an accomplishment."

House Speaker Mark Blasdel released the following statement on the bills passing:

This is exactly the kind of session we've been striving for from the beginning: More work and less politics. Neither side wants to waste the people's time with speeches and bickering. We respect the work of the appropriations committee.

If you add all funds, right now this budget is less than 2 percent over the last biennium, which is less than the rate of inflation. Members of the appropriations committee – from both parties – did good work.

Bipartisan cooperation doesn't mean agreeing on everything. It means a focus on results, rather than on scoring points. That's what we've done today. More work and less politics.

In a one-on-one interview, Blasdel gave a lot of credit to the House appropriations committee for producing a budget that was agreeable to both sides. "When the budget gets to the floor there's a lot of pointed amendments that I think sometimes drive a lot of rhetoric and a lot of political gamesmanship, but not a lot of consensus," said Bladel. "We were able to stop those amendments from coming this time and we were able to get a budget without a lot of rhetoric and political games."

Mark Blasdel:

Blasdel also gave credit to the house Appropriations committee. When asked what the differences were in the house budget is compared to what Governor Bullock had requested, Appropriations Committee Chair Duane Ankney said, "not a lot."

"I don't think we gave up a lot," Ankney said, "quite frankly if you would talk to the democrat side I don't think they would say they gave up a lot." Ankney said that the main theme of the appropriations committee this session was respect.

Duane Ankney:

The budget still needs to be approved by the Senate and the Governor. Ankney says the final budget will look a lot like the budget passed by the house.