- Associated Press - Friday, March 10, 2017

HELENA, Mont. (AP) - The Latest on Montana’ state budget (all times local):

4:20 p.m.

A Montana budget committee has restored more than $11 million that had been slated to be cut from higher education spending over the next two years.

That is nearly half of the $23 million in cuts that were being proposed for the Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education budget drafted by the House Appropriations Committee.

The $11.6 million restored Friday was part of the 5 percent across-the-board budget roll backs across state agencies.

The loss in spending dollars could have meant tuition hikes for university students. Students at the University of Montana were facing a 21 percent hike in tuition.

While Democrats said they were relieved by the committee’s action, they said they were blindsided by the last-minute proposal to return the money.

More than $11 million in other cuts to higher education programs will move forward as part of the overall state budget.

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12:30 p.m.

Montana House Democrats are seeking to restore nearly $100 million in health care spending cut from Gov. Steve Bullock’s proposed budget, but Republicans aren’t budging much.

The House Appropriations Committee on Friday mostly held firm on rolling back spending in tight budget times - despite impassioned pleas by Democrats to fund health programs.

While they opposed big-ticket proposals by Democrats, the Republican-controlled committee did agree to a couple of modest changes to the health care budget.

One change carried by Republican Rep. Jon Knokey of Bozeman puts back $220,000 in funding for the disabled.

Republicans defeated each of the Democrats’ proposed changes to the spending bill. One proposal put forward by Rep. Marilyn Ryan of Missoula would have allocated $61 million to help boost the pay of direct care givers.

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