Chair of the Montana House Appropriations Committee, Republican Nancy Ballance confirmed that her committee has recommended the removal of over 100 positions from the Montana Department of Health and Human Services.

It’s a move that has brought protests from the agency’s director, Sheila Hogan and Montana Governor Steve Bullock.

Ballance said the special session called in 2017 provided a unique opportunity to see inside state agencies.

“The special session provided a unique opportunity to look at personnel resources,” said Ballance. “The cuts that were made affected people and positions and many positions were held vacant for over a year because they did not have the money to pay for them before the restore happened. So, for all of fiscal 2018 there were about 200 plus positions that we took a look at in detail to see how long they had been vacant and then we did remove a number of those positions after having some pretty serious discussions during the subcommittee meetings with each of the agencies.”

Ballance said her committee will put the budget together and then it will go to the house floor where there could be amendments brought early next week.

“By far, the largest part of the budget is through Health and Human Services,” she said. “Actually, no agency was left untouched, they may not have actually lost any positions, but because DPHHS is the largest, you hear about them the most. We have a very difficult time of getting them to identify the lowest priority positions that you can live without. The answer we finally got was that ‘we support the governor’s budget’, and they want the governor’s so-called revenue enhancers, which are tax increases, and we’ve made it clear from day one that these are the same tax increases we saw last session. We said no to those and I cannot in my wildest dreams imagine Republicans saying yes to them this time around.”

Ballance said agencies like OPI and the Department of Corrections are represented by former legislators like Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen and Cynthia Wolken in the Department of Corrections who understand the budgeting process.