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Senate amendment to HB1 reduces costs of legislature

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Last week we heard the State of the State address given by our governor to the joint House and Senate. It was televised across Montana so you might have seen it.

He was very up beat and positive about Montana’s economic recovery. I wish we had more improvement here in the western part of the state.

Unemployment in Lincoln County is 18 percent, Sanders 17.8 percent, Mineral 13.9 percent, Glacier 12.2 percent and Flathead 12.1 percent. Lake County unemployment is 11 percent. To those numbers you can add about 3 percent of workers that have left the state for work.

I do believe that Montana will see an economic recovery, but I am not quite as optimistic as the governor. I’d rather keep more money in the bank. For example, let’s not spend the savings in the fire suppression account. Our forests are dying and a fire could be devastating economically and ecologically.

But then, where do we cut the budget? There are not very many places. One major worry, the retirement plans are not actuarially sound.

We finally passed out HB1, commonly called the feed bill. We reduced the costs of the legislature by more than 9 percent due to a senate amendment that we all supported.

The pay plan for the state workers comes to committee this week. I will try to reduce the health care benefit. The unions will be unhappy so I might not be able to get this done. I will donate any increase in my health care benefits to the Polson Food Bank.

There is another pay plan to increase the salaries of the lowest paid workers instead of a percentage increase for all. I think that this is a very fair way to go.

I presented HB302 to the Transportation Committee last week. HB302 requires the Montana driver’s license test to be administered only in English. The opponents tried to make it about immigration. But it is about safety. Currently we give the test in Chinese, Russian, Spanish and English.

I picked out a few highway signs to show the committee. I think that it is important to understand things like “fines double in work zones” and “school crossing ahead.”

I have a Polson page, Clint Cooper, this week. Once again the best pages come from our area, but then I might be prejudiced.

Representative Reichner’s workers’ compensation overhaul bill was presented on Monday. It will really make a difference. Representative Blasdel is working on business equipment tax and we are all trying to so some property tax fixes. Isn’t easy with the rest of the state happy with the reappraisals.

Continue to keep me informed. I never forget that I work for you. Leave a message at (406) 444-4800, my cell is (406) 253-8766, email jannataylor@montana.com or www.jannataylor.com

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