Valley Journal
Valley Journal

Montanans agree: Legislature must work with Governor to balance budget

News from the Governor’s Office

MONTANA – For the last two months, Montana local officials, community leaders, business owners, organizations and ordinary citizens from across the state have publicly stated support for the Governor’s plan to balance the budget in a way that minimizes the negative impact of budget cuts necessitated by a costly fire season and state revenues coming in lower than projected by the Republican-majority Legislature.

“Montanans all across the state have come out and said there is a better way to do this,” said Governor Bullock. “It’s time Montana leaders fulfill our responsibilities to the people we represent and balance the budget in a way that makes sense for Montana taxpayers, workers, and families.”

Nearly 1,500 Montanans have called, written, or submitted comments to Governor Bullock to voice their concerns about proposed budget cuts and urged the Governor’s Office to call the Legislature back into session to balance the budget in a more responsible way. Montanans were able to review all of the proposed cuts at www.balancedbudget.mt.gov and submit comments.

Montanans overwhelmingly agree: Legislature must work with Governor Bullock to balance the budget

Groups across the state urge legislators to work together to increase revenue to fund essential services

News from the Governor’s Office

MONTANA – For the last two months, Montana local officials, community leaders, business owners, organizations and ordinary citizens from across the state have publicly stated support for the Governor’s plan to balance the budget in a way that minimizes the negative impact of budget cuts necessitated by a costly fire season and state revenues coming in lower than projected by the Republican-majority Legislature.

“Montanans all across the state have come out and said there is a better way to do this,” said Governor Bullock. “It’s time Montana leaders fulfill our responsibilities to the people we represent and balance the budget in a way that makes sense for Montana taxpayers, workers, and families.”

Nearly 1,500 Montanans have called, written, or submitted comments to Governor Bullock to voice their concerns about proposed budget cuts and urged the Governor’s Office to call the Legislature back into session to balance the budget in a more responsible way. Montanans were able to review all of the proposed cuts at www.balancedbudget.mt.gov and submit comments.

Montana Citizens:

“I join other Montanans in hoping that our Republican legislators will recognize this and do the job they failed to do in the first place. This storm can be weathered, but only if partisan politics are thrown aside to do what is best for all Montanans.” -Genoa Carver, Billings 

“Regarding Montana’s severe budget crisis, I’m in favor of Gov. Steve Bullock calling a special session so the people who were elected to represent all citizens of this state can figure out a new budget. Bullock should not be forced to make $220 million in cuts, especially since those cuts will directly affect the most vulnerable citizens of this state — the elderly, the mentally ill, those with developmental and/or physical disabilities.” -Mary Catherine Dunphy, Miles City 

“It is time to convene a special session of the Legislature, revisit the budget and raise additional revenue in order to avoid draconian funding cuts that will devastate the lives of many Montanans.” -Adela Awner, Billings 

“I encourage Gov. Steve Bullock and our state legislators to develop a solution that includes generating revenue, like increasing the tobacco tax and closing tax loopholes that benefit only the wealthy and large corporations. Solving this budget crisis with cuts alone will harm our most vulnerable children and families, and will ultimately create bigger problems that become more expensive to address in the future.” -Hollie Timmons, Missoula 

“A true measure of the character of Montana, and Montanans, is how we respond when others need our help. At this time of budget crisis, thousands of our fellow Montanans face a very tough future. Balancing the state budget by cutting critical social services to those in need demeans all Montanans. Raise our taxes, at least temporarily, to balance the budget.” -Fred Stewart, Missoula 

“Our legislators must support public employees and public school teachers. I believe our legislators should support programs that help Montana families live productive lives. I believe that the Legislature should consider raising revenues — we cannot just cut our way to prosperity. The State of Montana should not be balancing the budget on the backs of state employees and by cutting services vital to our citizens.” -Jane Shawn, Helena  

“The services that our Offices of Public Assistance administer are invaluable to Montana seniors, low-income residents, and rural communities. Closing 19 of our state’s OPAs would severely affect the ability of rural Montanans to receive critical food, medical, and other assistance. DPPHS cannot withstand such drastic cuts and still meet the daily needs of ordinary Montanans. We urge Governor Bullock and the Legislature to come together in a special session, and work to find a balanced solution that does not leave rural Montana bearing the brunt of this budget crisis.” -Oscar Pena, Missoula 

“The state needs to hold a special session to raise revenue. There were bills proposed that would have helped raise revenue, but were voted down. It is time for Montana legislators to go back to Helena and work with Gov. Bullock to fix the problems we are facing and raise revenue. Please contact your state legislator asking them for a special session and ask them to raise the revenue needed to keep people in their homes.” -Virjeana (Jeannie) Brown, Belgrade 

“Our clean air and water, workers’ compensation, unemployment insurance, law enforcement, care for the elderly, infant health, mental health, prison security, transportation safety, roads, bridges, and waterways are watched over, cared for, and administered by state employees. The services provided by state employees are essential to the lifestyle and health we enjoy and expect, and must be financed. I urge the Legislature to find the revenue to continue these services.” -Valerie Clague, Helena 

“These cuts are not just numbers, the cuts would impact Montanans — clients and care providers alike. I, like many other home care providers, have children to provide for and a future to save for. We need our elected representatives to come together and solve this crisis. Please find revenue solutions and prevent seniors, people with disabilities and home care workers like me from losing everything.” -Jody Schoch, Corvallis 

“The governor and Legislature need to work together and find the political courage to bring in long-term revenue to invest in our people. Please, ask those who can afford it to pay their fair share. I’m proud and happy to continue to invest in this great state.” -Dotty Ballantyne, Bozeman 

“We need them to take both sides of the situation seriously and go back to Helena to prevent a loss in the budget wherein home care is greatly needed. As caregivers, we do our job every single day with care and compassion. We need our legislation to do the same when it comes to our budget.” -Debbie Sly, Hamilton 

“The budget crisis affects more than just our seniors. If these cuts go through, rural health clinics like ours could be forced to close their doors. So I’m asking our elected leaders to go back to the Legislature and explain to their colleagues how important these services are for our community. Please work to raise revenue to avoid these cuts.” -Brandy Mattoon, Hamilton 

“There has to be a better way to balance the budget and make any needed cuts in a more reasonable, fair way. People who need help shouldn’t have to pick up a newspaper and read that money is being “found” for pay hikes for state workers while their access to services is being cut. Let the governor and your legislators know they should re-think the Medicaid cuts. We can — and should — do better.” -Michael Coe, Polson 

“If you wouldn’t sacrifice your own child’s future to save a few bucks, don’t wait. Tell your elected officials (especially Governor Bullock!) that this trade off is unacceptable. Tell them you are willing to pay your fair share to keep our state free of wildfires (approx $183 per household). Tell them not to force the burden of unexpected shortfalls on Montanans that aren’t even old enough to vote. And tell them now, before it’s too late.” -Derek Sturm, Helena 

“Our state Legislature and governor need to return to revenue options like the tobacco tax, the alcohol tax, and straight up asking multi-national corporations to pay their fair share in Montana.” -Heidi Barrett, Livingston 

“I am proud of all we have done to change the lives of thousands of kids, and we will continue to do everything we can to give kids what they need. We dedicate our resources to strengthen families and raise children supportively so that they can fully contribute to their communities. I only ask that our elected officials do the same.” -Geoffrey L. Birnbaum, Missoula

Montana Economic Developers Association:

“MEDA strongly urges the executive and legislative branches of the State of Montana to work cooperatively, and with dispatch, to develop a realistic solution to the current budget crisis. We believe any budget solution must include careful consideration of both expenditure reductions and revenue enhancements, avoiding across-the-board cuts.” 

Montana Association of Counties:

“In partnership with the League of Cities and Towns, we believe that discussions with the Governor’s Office, leadership in the House and Senate, and MACo will result in proposals that will minimize the disproportionate impacts of spending reductions on those most vulnerable and avoid the unintended consequences of funding cuts that disproportionately shift the burden onto local property taxpayers. While there are no easy solutions to the current fiscal situation, MACo suggests that by working together, with our common constituents in mind, we can find a way forward. We ask for your leadership in convening such a meeting and starting this important conversation in advance of a possible special session”. 

Montana League of Cities and Towns:

“The MLCT Board of Directors has affirmatively voted to urge you to call a special session so that all affected stakeholders can work together in a non-partisan manner to determine the best path forward for all Montanans. We ask that you and the Legislature consider a combination of cuts and new revenue sources to balance the state budget. We specifically request that you make no further cuts to the “entitlement share” distributions to local governments as a solution to the state budget crisis. Entitlement share funds are critical to local government’s ability to fund essential community services. 

At this point, a special session is not only the right thing for our elected officials to do; our communities are depending on it.”

Montana Nonprofit Association:

“The Montana Nonprofit Association (MNA), on behalf of our 600 charitable nonprofit member organizations, is uniquely positioned to understand the impact of budget decisions on the people of Montana and the communities, large and small, served by our state’s nonprofits. As the leading voice for Montana’s charitable nonprofit sector, MNA urges a balanced approach to the current state budget deficit, an approach that considers all available options, including both revenue and expenditures.” 

County Officials:

“Anaconda-Deer Lodge County would like to go on record by stating the need for our State of Montana Department of Revenue Office.” -Bill T. Everett, CEO, Anaconda-Deer Lodge Country 

“We are writing this letter to express our concerns and voice our support for our residents in Stillwater Country who participate and desperately need to have an Office of Public Assistance in the County.” -Dennis Shupak, Chair, Maureen Davey, Mark Crago, Stillwater County Board of Commissioners

“Granite County strong supports the State of Montana Department of Revenue Office in the Granite County Courthouse…Because Granite County is anticipating long range future development, we believe that it is imperative that the State of Montana continue to operate a Department of Revenue Office here in Philipsburg. We believe that the office should remain open and fully staffed to maintain current services.” -Barton C. Bonney, Chairperson, Scott C. Adler, Commissioner, Bill Slaughter, Commissioner, Board of County Commissioners of Granite County 

“We are asking that you consider calling a special session to collaborate on raising revenues, possibly through consumptive tax increases, to fund these and other critical programs that the State and local government partner to provide to our citizens.” -Jean Curtiss, Chair, Nicole Rowley, Commissioner, David Strohmaier, Commissioner, Missoula County Board of County Commissioners 

“We want to voice our concerns of the hardship that would be placed on our county residents if the [Department of Revenue] office in Jordan were to close. This office is very important to know when to check on new construction of buildings and is also used by residents that may not drive the extra miles to get information.” -Jerry Collins, Chairman, Teddy R. Robertson, Member, Tommy L. Billing, Member, Garfield County Commissioners 

“The purpose of this letter is to speak out against the proposed budget cuts to the Department of Revenue…we would like to see the Carter County Office left as status quo.” -James E. Courtney, Chair, Steve Rosencranz, Member, Rod Tauck, Member, Board of Carter County Commissioners 

Montana Business Leaders:

“We the undersigned Montana business leaders, urge our Legislature to work with our governor and address our state’s revenue shortfall in a manner designed to minimize the harm done by cutting services.” -Daryl Schleim, president, Bozeman Chamber of Commerce; Joe Carbonari, owner, Carbonari Associates, Kalispell; Kris Carpenter, president, Sanctuary Spa, Billings; Scott Brown, owner, The Base Camp, Billings; Briggita Miranda-Freer, president, Montana World Trade Center, Missoula; Michael Fitzgerald, founder and CEO, Submittable Inc, Missoula; Ryan Busse, firearms manufacturing executive, Kalispell; Max Pigman, founder, Lewis and Clark Brewery, Helena; Bill Stoddard, founder, HomeStake Venture Partners, Bozeman; and John Goodnow, CEO, Benefis Health System, Great Falls 

Montana Students: 

“We urge legislators to not only carefully consider more revenues – ones that are fair and thoughtful – but to also consider what is at stake and look to the future. In order to continue growing a strong economy, you need an educated workforce. And we are that educated future workforce. So raise revenues, not tuition. And remember that all future students in Montana are depending on you to make the right decisions to move our state forward, not backwards.” -Madison Minter, Hannah Bott, Ann Rupert, Associated Students of Montana State University Senator Taylor Blossom, Anne Lynam, Margaret Davies, Haley Cox, ASMSU Senator Alex Lei, Drew Deskin, Claire Lewinski, ASMSU Vice President Micah McFeely, Connor Hoffmann, Gerrit Egnew, Christopher Guenther, Mayah VandeWetering, Lauren Winter and Hannah Telling 

“We may be angry -- frightened, even -- by the current budget crisis. But we must have the courage to come together and find solutions that remain true to character as participants in a Democracy. I urge the Legislature to reconvene in a special session to increase state revenue.” -Haley Cox, Bozeman 

Montana Veterans:

“On behalf of all Montana veterans, but specifically for the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars (departments of Montana), please – through action – show your appreciation and commitment to our state’s veterans, as well as the state agency which serves them so well, by keeping the Montana Veterans Affairs Division’s veterans services/outreach program funded at its current level.” -Larry Dobb, Department Commander, Charles M. Carroll, State Commander 

Montana Healthcare Community:

“While cutting Part C, Early Intervention may help reduce the budget deficit in the short term, it will end up costing Montanans more in the long term. Therefore, I strongly implore Governor Bullock and also Jon Sesso and Edie McClafferty, of the Finance Committee, to preserve both Part C Early Intervention Services and the Family Education Support Program, and use their creativity to come up with other funding for our budget shortfall.” -Dr. Cathy White, MD FAAP, Butte 

“No one should face Alzheimer’s disease or any other dementia alone. The Montana Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias Workgroup urges the legislature to work with Governor Bullock to hold a special session in which real, long-term solutions are on the table for a balanced approach.” -Dr. Patricia Coon, Billings 

“We all deserve a representative government that listens to the citizens, prioritizes people first, and takes responsibility for its actions. Whether we know someone these programs serves or not, these cuts hurt our communities and the people who live here. Support for people with disabilities is an essential function of government. On behalf of all the people that Reach has supported in the past four decades, I implore our elected representatives to get back to work and invest in all Montanans.” -Rob Tallon, Executive Director, Reach, Inc.  

“While WMMHC understands that our state is experiencing trying fiscal times and while we are willing to share in absorbing a portion of the fiscal burden, it is our expectation that our partner, the state of Montana, should want to sit with us, sleeves rolled up, to work together to find solutions. We do not want to be left alone to shoulder the burden of those cuts that will affect one of our most vulnerable populations.” -Western Montana Mental Health Center  

“On behalf of the 114 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists, and pediatric surgical specialists of the American Academy of Pediatrics – Montana Chapter (Montana AAP), I write today to express our grave concerns over a proposal to eliminate Part C Early Intervention Services of the Family Education Support program.” -Tanya Jagodzinski, MD FAAP, Montana AAP Chapter President 

“We understand the budget challenges our state faces and believe that the best solutions will only be achieved when both the executive and legislative branches of state government work together. To that end, the RiverStone Board of Health strongly encourages you to call the Legislature into special session for the purpose of addressing the state’s budget challenges in ways that do less harm to the people we are all pledged to serve.” -Michael Dennis, Ph.D., Chair, RiverStone Board of Health 

Montana Legislators:

“Democratic legislators are already working with Governor Bullock to carefully manage the state’s checkbook. We would like to change course and come back with a fairer, more balanced approach to the budget, but we cannot do it alone. Unless the Republican majority is willing to come to the table, the governor is left with no choice but to cut bone.” Rep. Jenny Eck, D-Helena. 

“Simply accepting these cuts and hoping for change is not a solution, nor is it a fiscally or morally sound decision. We must work together to create policies that allow Montanans to keep more of their hard-earned money, stabilize our revenues, and protect our families.” -Rep. Jessica Karjala, D-Billings 

“I hope the Republican majority will join Governor Bullock and Democratic legislators at the negotiating table to fix some of these handouts to the top 0.4 percent in our state. I know it’s possible, because many of us worked together on many issues over the years that have made our communities, and Montana, the amazing place that it is. I am committed to working with all of my colleagues to put together a responsible budget.” -Rep. Shane Morigeau, D-Missoula 

“The productivity of the state’s economy is best measured by gross state product, which is basically the total value of everything that we produce in the state and ultimately, the source of our income. And the fact is that the growth of state spending and revenue has fallen significantly behind this growth of gross state product. There is no indication that we have spent beyond our means; on the contrary, we could afford to do more, and we certainly can afford to do what we are doing now.” -Sen. Dick Barrett, D-Missoula 

“We cannot and should not balance Montana’s budget by sacrificing public safety with cuts that will end up costing taxpayers many more millions in the long run. We are willing to work with Governor Bullock during a special session to find a better path forward and prevent these cuts and encourage our colleagues across the aisle to do the same. The long-term health and safety of our communities depend on it.” -Sen. Cynthia L. Wolken, D-Missoula, Rep. Kimberly Dudik, D-Missoula 

“It’s time for us to gather in Helena, roll up our sleeves and restore our constituents’ faith in our public institutions. Our state government can work for all Montanans if we set aside the rhetoric, bench the propaganda, and work in a bipartisan manner to find solutions. The survival of our histories, cultures, and communities depend on it.” -Rep. Shane Morigeau, Sen. Lea Whitford, Sen. Frank Smith, Rep. Jonathan Windy Boy, Rep. Bridget Smith, Rep. George Kipp III, Rep. Susan Webber, Rep. Sharon Stewart-Peregoy and Rep. Rae Peppers 

“I am calling for all legislators to meet with a cross-section of community-based providers in their districts to help determine how to keep the system going. We need to understand what it will take to ensure that our safety net does not completely unravel. Then, we need to stop the partisan grandstanding and finally work together to act on short- and long-term solutions.” -Rep. Kathy Kelker, D-Billings

“As our constituents unpack how proposed cuts budget cuts will impact their communities, many have been reaching out to us lawmakers with their concerns. As elected representatives, it is our job to execute policy that best fits the needs and desires of the Montanans we serve, so thank you for communicating those needs.” -Rep. Kelly McCarthy, D-Billings 

Montana’s major newspapers:

“Public reaction has been overwhelmingly against cuts that would need to be about 10 percent of the entire general fund budget. Worse, programs that receive federal matching dollars would be cut even deeper. For example, most Montana Medicaid services are paid with $2 of federal funds for each $1 the state pays. Losing one state dollar means that Montana health care providers will lose $3 total. The city and county leaders added their voices to the urgent cry for the Legislature to fix the unworkable budget it approved — and Bullock signed — six months ago. Don’t abdicate responsibility, fix the revenue shortfall together.” -Billings Gazette 

“Republicans, who have majorities in both the Senate and the House of Representatives have been and continue to be resistant to raising any taxes. But things have changed. And reasonable lawmakers of all stripes need to find their way to compromise. Balancing the budget with spending cuts alone isn’t acceptable. Bullock should call legislators back to Helena to do the job we elected them to do. That includes adequately funding state government in a fair and reasonable way.” -Bozeman Daily Chronicle 

“Just as Governor Bullock’s office must work to identify the least painful places to make agency cuts, legislators must work to identify the least painful ways to raise revenue. We’re not convinced that the spending reductions proposed so far represent the best Montana can do. Anyone who’s ever looked at a balance sheet knows it’s easier to shuffle numbers around if one doesn’t consider the real-world impact of budget adjustments. Montanans must make sure our legislative and executive leadership is giving the utmost consideration to the effects of their budget dealing. Far less important than how we got to this low point is what we are going to do to climb back out of it. Montanans must demand that those with the authority to do so re-think the heavy-handed cuts, explore potential sources of additional revenue – and demonstrate their willingness to compromise on a new budget for the good of Montana.”-Missoulian 

“We believe lawmakers must also be willing to give on the issue of taxation, whether that's in the form of a sales tax, property tax or income tax, some of the gap must be made up by revenue. That would take bringing the Legislature back into session, a risky proposition because it could result in nothing more than partisan blame and grandstanding. While it would be irresponsible to raise taxes enough to cover the entire shortfall, it's equally dubious to expect Bullock will only cut, cut, cut. Both tools must be used in addressing this very serious financial situation.” -Billings Gazette  

“Bullock can’t save all the essentials that are now on the chopping block. A solution demands the cooperation of a majority of the 150 lawmakers and the governor. We call upon all those lawmakers to be part of the solution. Don’t force vulnerable Montanans to suffer because the biennial budget got the revenue estimate wrong.” -Billings Gazette (View)

“Lawmakers failed at their jobs when they didn’t see this coming. Rather than telling the governor to slash budgets for programs that people really need, legislators need to reconvene in Helena and find alternative solutions. Bullock has suggested reasonable tax increases to offset the budget shortfall. These include increased taxes on tobacco and alcohol products and increased or new taxes on hotel beds and car rentals. He has also proposed a surtax on individual incomes that exceed $500,000 annually. Yes, there are some budget cuts that can and should be made with minimal consequences. But just taking an axe to the budget is irresponsible. Bullock should issue the call for a special session and make lawmakers do the work they were elected to do.” -Bozeman Daily Chronicle 

“Gov. Steve Bullock is required by state law to cut spending up to 10 percent if revenue projections for the biennium fall short. But lawmakers aren’t off the hook. Bullock and the legislative majority agreed on this budget in April, they all own it. The Montanans who went to Helena last winter and spring got commitments for funding that budget, which already was austere. Now many of the youngest, oldest, sickest and most vulnerable Montanans are at risk of losing their safety, their health and homes. It’s the job of Bullock and the 150 lawmakers to protect them.” -Billings Gazette 

“Now is the time to stop that downward spiral. A special legislative session is warranted, but there’s no use convening the House and Senate until a majority of lawmakers is willing to do more than boast of cutting government and refusing to raise any tax. Republican lawmakers should be open to statutory changes that will increase state revenues. Gov. Steve Bullock cannot raise revenue, and he cannot cut more than 10 percent from the budget. This problem is too big for the governor to fix by himself. The solution must be a compromise between the executive and legislative branches.” -Billings Gazette

 

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