By Matt Volz Associated Press

HELENA (AP) – Republican legislative leaders say state agency spending cuts will have to go much deeper than those in Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock’s budget plan.

Bullock is proposing $74 million in cuts across state agencies, plus tax hikes and one-time transfers to balance the two-year state budget and build its surplus to $300 million by 2019.

Senate Finance and Claims Chairman Llew Jones said Wednesday that many of those tax hikes and transfers are unrealistic. Instead, Jones and House Appropriations Chairman Nancy Ballance are targeting $120 million in spending cuts as a starting point for the next budget.

The biggest cuts would include $37 million to the Department of Public Health and Human Services and $24 million to the Office of Public Instruction.

Democratic lawmakers are questioning how such cuts will affect programs and services Montana residents rely on.

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