Why the hell would I do such a thing?
While it’s true I often wonder how he got elected in 2012 and how the hell he’ll do the same in 2016, I do feel as though the budget he’s proposing members of the Montana Republicans help him work on is a good idea.
What’s so good about it?
Let’s look at some key points from the Missoulian article on Bullock’s 2015 budget tonight, which was put together by Chuck Johnson in Helena:
$37 million for early childhood education
If Missoula can get so much, why can’t the state of Montana. The fact that we’re arguing over this tells you how backward we can be, and how much out of state businessmen looking for new locations view us as. This needs to change, and I’m glad people like Steve Bullock recognize that.
$12 million for community health services
But I’ve gotten off track. $12 million is reasonable, and I’m sure with some negotiation Republicans will get that down. It’s just that doing so will actually hurt them and cost them more money long-term. If you don’t get it either, it’s alright – you’re rational.
Major infrastructure program
When I was on the doors in February and March I heard a few people say they wanted this. I heard from two parents of sons over there saying they wanted this. And this was in Missoula.
So now we get down to price. And frankly, I’d like to see a lot of the oil companies shoulder that burden, since they’re profiting. And don’t think for a second that the whole area won’t go bust again, like I talked about in my book Hustlers and Homesteaders – it will, and that fancy infrastructure will just be this century’s rotting husks.
Folks, the vast majority of these people are out-of-state oil workers, most rushing to Montana, just like in the 1910s. They’re in many cases being hard-headed assholes, dragging their family along into terrible conditions. And you guessed it: you’ve got to pay for it. And when the bust comes? Well, let’s not talk about that, huh?
See, I’m not too concerned about alienating them because they’ll be voting somewhere else in a few years. Right now they just vote Republican because Democrats have offered them nothing appealing. But don’t tell that to the Republicans in Sidney clamoring for $55 million in infrastructure. And sure the hell don’t tell that to the oil companies that generated $200 million in tax revenue for Montana in 2012.
Of course you could just change the current law so the state wasn’t getting 52% of that ($104 million), the various counties weren’t getting 25% ($50 million), the school districts weren’t getting 20% ($40 million), and the…well, who the hell does get that other 3% ($6 million)? I bet that’s someone’s pet project or retirement slush fund or office party fund or something, so we probably shouldn’t talk about that. I mean, do you want some 8-year-old from Oklahoma to have to stop pissing in some field because he’s got nothing else?
What the hell is the tax rate that’s giving us that $200 million in oil tax revenue? Take a look at this chart from a Montana legislative PDF on oil and gas tax rates:
What the hell’s a tax rate for someone that owns a McDonald’s in Montana? Well, the corporate tax rate in Montana is 6.75%. What if you’re a regular voter, someone that doesn’t get a lot of consideration in Helena during the legislative session? You’d pay about 8.6% in taxes.
What’s that oil worth? In 2013 there was $2.6 billion worth of the stuff produced. If you want to apply that 14% tax rate (let’s be liberal, huh?), you’d get $364 million in taxes, leaving the companies $2.2 billion. Now, I don’t want to get into profits and payroll and people.
- First, you can do what you want with your profits, who am I to say or even suggest you take care of your workers?
- Secondly, I know it costs a lot to do business, and your workers realized this too, and that’s why they sacrifice the health, safety, and sanity of their families for you.
- Finally, why invest a lot of those profits back into Montana when you know the boom is going to end? Yeah, it just doesn’t make a lot of sense, from a business standpoint, does it?
Thankfully we’re not splitting counties, adding more government to that booming area, like we did back from around 1910 to 1920. I’d personally like to see more talk about combining counties, and I’d like to see things like that attached to discussions on spending. For anyone that wants to look at what the population’s going to be like in much of that area in 2030 would do well to start devising strategies now. Or do we just want large swaths of red on the map, the kind that eat our tax dollars while giving nothing in return?
But let’s not look to the future too far, let’s just focus on today. And that’s why infrastructure is a good idea – because people are living and working over their now.
Closing oil and gas tax loopholes would be a good way to pay for it. But honestly, why can’t an oil company not pay taxes for 12 to 18 months? I’m not sure of any other businesses in America that can do that, nor am I sure why oil should be special, but again, let’s just not ask those questions.
See, I’m just trying to find as many ways as possible to ensure taxpayers aren’t footing the bill on this. And you can call me crazy, but roads to oilfields and shitters on the side of future EPA cleanup sites aren’t really things I feel I should pay for. I mean, how’s that oil boom in eastern Montana helping me over here in Missoula? My wages and my wife’s wages are shit, and food prices are going up and now my heating bill is too. Why should I care about anyone in eastern Montana?
You start answering that question and I might be interested in sitting down and listening what you have to say. Until then, well gosh boys, I think that pen’ll have to stay in the pocket.
$300 million surplus
So that’s why having money in the bank is good. But what interest rate are we earning? If it’s around 0%, hell, I’d rather give that to Montanans so they can put that into their local economy, give it to the power company, give it to Charter, or give it to one of the many out of state retailers they’ll buy from in droves this holiday season.
(Note to future readers: Always give tax rebate checks out before Christmas, not in June or July when it’s convenient for accountants in Helena, who let’s face it, would rather have that check before they’re expected to buy hundreds of dollars in gifts and pay January’s rent).
What if it was earning 1%, or even 2%? That would give us between $3 million and $6 million…I’m sorry, is it each month? Alright, so that’s anywhere from $36 million to $72 million a year in interest.
Or is that not how banking works? Again, maybe I shouldn’t compare my household budgetary ways to what a government does – it might make sense.
To me it makes little sense why the Montana Republicans wouldn’t want an extra $72 million a year…or even $10 million. Why don’t you want more money, especially when it’s already there and you just have to leave it in the bank for a year?
Or do they think the Democrats can’t leave the money in the bank for a year? Because I’ll tell you the truth, if they can’t I’d just assume we say fuck the Democrats and give that money to the people, how’s that sound to you?
I think it sounds alright and if I took that message to the people, what do you think they’d say, to those two choices? I think you know what they’d say, and that’s why having a surplus budget makes sense to most first-graders.
What’s not in the budget?
- $28.2 million for tuition freezes: This was the number from 2013, and I think we all want college to cost less. Some of those GOP legislators are young enough to have student loan debt, and sure some of the older ones have heard about the monumental problems a whole generation has with making large purchases. Let’s begin addressing that, and holding our current position is a great place to start…a helluva lot better than taking a step back.
- $400 rebate checks: This proposal got shot down by the Republicans in 2013 and the reason is that it would have been popular with the people of Montana. That’s a big no-no going into the mid-terms, so Montana Republicans blocked it. They said a business equipment tax cut was better, and this is a common thing. I’d personally like to see some studies on the percentage of Montanans a business equipment tax cut helps and how many that goddamn check in the mail would help…but that’s just me.
Alright, I’ll stop making the paid media in Montana look bad…for tonight.