Montana legislators began hammering out the details of a weekend budget compromise in committee on Monday as the 2009 session begins to draw to a close. Republicans will get a budget that spends less than the House plan originally suggested. Democrats will have more ongoing state support for K-12 education and have the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) implemented as voters intended.
The discussion Monday, however, left some legislators unhappy that the CHIP compromise will not include funding for contraceptives. Click here or on the player below to listen to UM Legislative News Reporter Natalie Neumann’s report.
Democratic Senator Trudi Schmidt of Great Falls says having contraceptives in the long run will be more beneficial for the state’s budget because contraceptives are cheaper than a child on Medicaid.
“The main point the people need to recognize is that there are many people that don’t believe that abstinence only works and do people want to then have more children that are going to be on Medicaid that are going to be at a lower income because possibly the mom can’t afford health insurance.”
However, House minority leader Scott Sales, a Republican from Bozeman doesn’t believe that contraceptives have any place in children’s health insurance.
“I hope that young people are going to make good decisions for the right reasons and that they’re going to realize that having a child out of wedlock or in their teen years is not going to be productive in the long run. We currently are not doing it and we haven’t seen a gigantic spike in teenage pregnancies.”
The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services released a report last May saying that the Montana teen pregnancy rate had remained stable from 2002 to 2006 at a rate of 51 pregnancies per 1000 females between the ages of 15 to 19.
But Senator Schmidt says contraceptives are a preventative matter.
“I’ve worked with many women experiencing unplanned pregnancy and it’s a grueling decision to all of a sudden realize you’re going to be a parent and you don’t have any resources.”
The conference committee unanimously agreed on the compromise for the state’s budget late Monday afternoon and plan to vote on the bill on Tuesday, the last legislative day of the regular session.
Natalie Neumann is reporting from the state capitol for the University of Montana’s Legislative News Service.