The couple’s three children were sleeping in the living room at the time.
Then there’s the real piece of work from Deer Lodge that stabbed his ex-girlfriend in the neck several times until she was dead.
He used a butcher knife.
Those two will be going into our prison system for a long time, probably for the rest of their lives.
Let’s say that’s around 50 years.
We know it costs about $31,000 a year to house a man in Montana’s prisons.
That means each of these men will cost taxpayers $1,550,000.
Those men are just two reasons why we see nearly $83 million going to the Department of Corrections’ secure custody facilities in 2018, according to HB 2.
- Another $69 million is going to probation and parole programs for the 8,500 individuals that need them.
- Another $14 million is going to our youth services division to deal with troubled youth and $24 million goes to our critical services division.
I don’t even know what that last one does, but altogether and with a few more things thrown in, we’re spending $209 million on corrections next year.
The vast majority of that money is required simply to clean up the problems that our society produces.
Murders, thefts, drugs…you name it.
It costs a lot to clean up those messes, and then to house the people that created them.
Sure, we could kill more of these folks, but we’d still be spending tens of millions of dollars each year on the same issues.
Back in 2001 the Department of Corrections had 1,025 employees and was only getting $93.7 million.
Today it’s 1,400 employees and $209 million.
My how our problems have grown
Bullock proposed $74 million in state agency spending cuts even before the legislative session started.
At the same time the legislature expects state agencies to cut their budgets, the legislature’s own budget has jumped by 14%.
This is the $11.5 million HB 1, and it breaks down like so:
- Senate: $3.8 million
- House: $6.1 million
- Legislative Services Division: $1.1 million
Why is it costing so much for these legislators to meet?
“Higher salaries for new staff” as well as offsetting “non-session costs of serving in the Legislature,” MTN News tells us.
We already know that legislative costs in 2019 will be 9% higher than they were in 2015.
And please do not forget that all 150 legislators get 2 years worth of healthcare even though they only work for 90 days during that time.
None of them are required to pay the high Obamacare premiums, none of them are required to pay the high Obamacare deductibles.
So don’t be fooled by their cries over people losing coverage – our legislators aren’t losing shit.
Of all the people in state government, our legislators have it the cushiest and the coziest and give us little to show for it.
We still have the issue of the legislature demanding more cuts from state agencies.
This at a time when no one has enough money, and many agencies are asking for more already.
The Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education is asking for another $385,000 for its budget, for instance.
The reason is simple – they need that money to cover the STEM scholarships that students have already been promised for spring semester.
Why the money isn’t there is a bit more difficult, but ultimately comes down to the Montana Lottery, accounting mistakes, its director, and the fact that it “did not generate enough revenue to pay the scholarships.”
The Montana Lottery will be getting $5.4 million in their budget for 2018.
That’d be a great place to get the money for the scholarships that lots of Montana families are counting on.
But what are the other state agencies supposed to do…and is demanding these cuts really in the state’s long-term best interests?
Remember, if we cut spending at the state level it often means our cities or counties will raise taxes to make up for the budget shortfalls that they inevitably experience.
One way or the other, you’re paying for this.
And is that such a bad thing?
Take the story about the 14 dead kids.
The only one we really hear about is the young baby that died in the crib in winter weather when the window was open.
A big problem is that the legislature stopped budgeting the money for the agencies to even keep track of this kind of stuff.
Currently protecting kids falls under the authority of the Child and Family Services Division.
They’re getting $83.3 million in 2018, according to HB 2.
They fall under the purview of the Department of Public Health and Human Services, which is getting $1.9 billion in 2018.
That’s a lot of money.
- The Senior and Long Term Care Division of DPHHS, for example, gets $309 million for 2018.
- The Developmental Services Division gets $308 million.
- The Health Resources Division gets $802 million.
I can understand why the GOP committees want to talk with those various divisions – they want to figure out why things cost so much.
I hope those agencies have the answer.
One final issue before I leave you today involves the courts, the county jails, and the rising costs associated with them.
If the state isn’t going to fund those things then your local taxes will go up.
It sucks, but what other option is there…let DUI offenders just drive away because there’s no where to put them?
I still believe we’ll have to have a conversation about legalizing marijuana.
We need the money, badly.
What other options are there?
Sales taxes…more taxes on the rich…sin taxes…medical marijuana taxes?
There aren’t a whole lot of good options that'll carry us through long-term.
Perhaps we’ll hear legislators talk more about this as the next few weeks progress.
Maybe we'll hear some ideas. Maybe some new faces will make a name for themselves.
Most of them have been silent. It’s mainly been party-approved spokespeople so far.
Maybe that’ll change as the work of government picks up.