Montana’s Newest Budget
HB 2, the budget bill, is being hammered-out in the legislature. It’s only 34 pages so far, and you can read it here.
The bill currently asks for $200,000 for legislative furniture. All in all, the legislative branch is getting $18 million appropriated to it over the next two years. Do they really need that much?
Personally, I believe the legislative chairs were replaced about 20 years ago when the whole Capitol got a facelift.
But for the entitled asses sitting in those chairs, my goodness...that’s just too old.
For comparison’s sake, here are some other departments/offices:
- DPHHS gets $2.1 billion
- OPI gets $1 billion
- DOT gets $683 million
- Higher Ed gets $281 million
- Corrections gets $225 million
- DOJ gets $105 million
- Labor & Industry gets $85 million
- DNRC gets $74 million
- DEQ gets $66 million
- Fish and Wildlife gets $66 million
- The Department of Revenue gets $60 million
- Agriculture gets $53 million
- Military Affairs gets $51 million
- The PSC gets $36 million
- Commerce gets $32 million
- Admin gets $21 million
- Livestock gets $13 million
- The Auditor’s Office gets $8.8 million
- The School for the Deaf and Blind gets $8 million
- The Governor’s Office gets $7 million
- The State Library gets $5 million
- The Historical Society gets $5 million
- The Montana Arts Council gets $1.4 million
- COPP gets $875,000
- The Board of Public Education gets $339,000
All of that comes to $5.19 billion.
Some of those amounts are quite large. Let me give you some quick explanations as to why.
Clearly DPHHS is getting the most money, and this kind of makes sense.
We have a huge drug and alcohol problem in this state, and that means a lot of parents that should never have had kids will get in trouble for neglecting and/or abusing those kids, which requires DPHHS to come in and take those kids and then spend the time and money caring for them.
Costs about $105 million to do that.
On top of that we spend $324 million to take care of senior citizens that can’t take care of themselves any longer and never saved enough money to ensure they could hire someone to do the job for them.
$11 million alone is spent just to make sure asshole parents pay their child support.
When you compare the current budget bill to last session’s budget bill, you find that:
The legislature is getting $2 million more in this budget
- Agriculture gets $36 million more
- DNRC gets $7 million more
- Labor gets $4 million more
- Revenue gets $3 million more
- The School for the Deaf and Blind gets $700,000 more
- Auditor gets $400,000 more
- COPP gets $100,000 more
- DPHHS gets $100 million less
- Fish & Wildlife gets $28 million less
- The Historical Society gets $4 million less
- DEQ gets $2 million less
Follow the money; you’ll see the clear winners and losers shaping up this session.
Monica’s New Tour
In case you didn’t hear, the head of the Executive Director of the Montana Democratic Party is making the rounds of the state on a rural county listening tour.
That would be Monica Lindeen, who’s from Lewistown. So she should know a bit about the rural mindset.
As you know, I’m not a fan of paying the executive director of the Party over $6,000 a month in pay when they don’t really have any results to show for this.
But I will give Lindeen credit for at least trying to get out there and listen and come up with some new ideas.
And I will give the Dems credit for sharing those images on social media, even when you can tell there’s not a whole lot of people at those events.
I guess you gotta start somewhere.
Schweitzer’s Newest Words
Brian Schweitzer came out of wherever he’s been hiding to give us some thoughts.
He did so on Missoula Current, and so far that’s the only place in the state I’ve seen this article.
Our former governor is talking about the legislature and their plan to dictate grazing rights, something federal agencies usually oversee.
It’s not a sexy topic and few will read the article. I’m sure this is an issue for certain groups in Montana, but not for most of us.
Honestly, I wonder why he decided to write this article at all.
I am glad he is commenting on Montana issues, and I think this would be a great time for him to dust off his old energy book and remind us that he wrote it.
For instance, why not tie in some of the ideas from the book to the current debate about Colstrip?
I’m not sure what the whole Colstrip issue is right now, but I bet Schweitzer could tell us in a fun and informative way.
I hope he does.
That doesn’t mean he’s going to jump back into Montana politics, of course. Most know that. Most know he’s not going for governor again.
With the around-300-person poll that UM recently did we know that Kathleen Williams has the most support for a 2020 gubernatorial run.
She gets 27% support compared to Tim Fox’s 16%.
Williams was in Butte for St. Patrick’s Day, and I noticed that John Heenan was there too.
I think Heenan has a much better shot at winning the governor’s office in the general next year than Williams does, but Williams has a better shot at winning the primary.
I still have no idea who might run as a Democrat to unseat Daines.
Many in Montana want Bullock, but I’m not sure he’ll have enough time to get into that race after he most likely gets out of the presidential race.
An ambitious Democrat needs to come along and declare for that race sooner rather than later, which will both take some of the air out of Daines and make Bullock think twice about spoiling the party next March.
New Money Talk
AG candidate Kim Dudik went on the conservative Missoula radio station Monday morning to discuss the issues.
One thing she brought up was the sales tax, and how this is still very much alive this session.
She also highlighted the disastrous Martz tax cuts that took place in 2003 and eliminated a tax bracket for those making $400,000 to $500,000 a year.
She figures this has cost Montana $1 billion in revenue since then.
The changes to the capital gains tax laws have only made this worse. The state’s income tax rate is between 1% and 6.9%, but capital gains are taxed 2% less than ordinary income.
85% of Montanans are hurt by our current capital gains tax laws.
We know those laws will never revert to their pre-2003 levels until Democrats take the legislature.
Democrats in Montana will never take the legislature because it’s just not a priority for them. Their FEC finance reports make this quite clear.
So for rich people, Montana is a great place to live or relocate to. The state won’t take your money to provide essential services and there will never be any serious political opposition to this.
Maybe if Dems weren’t so used to losing this wouldn’t be the case. Maybe if they had leaders in Montana, things would be different.
But they’re not, and they won’t be for a very long time. Years if not decades.
New Housing Ideas
Missoula has a terrible housing crisis right now, and we lack affordable housing. This means common workers spend most of their monthly earnings on rent or mortgages. They have little left to put into the local economy.
Missoula’s answer for this is to pass a new bond to help create money for affordable housing issues.
Money from this bond could be used to fix affordable housing units that are run down...though we have very few of those in Missoula.
Zoning changes are another option.
Mostly, people don’t know what to do...but they do know that any options city government comes up with will raise taxes.
I know...you just can’t fix stupid. I’m simply amazed that people don’t see a link between bonding tax increases and our housing crisis.
But they’re starting to learn.
County Commissioner Josh Slotnick said that our decision to vote yes on the library and park bonds have made Missoula into a “hyper-precious, super expensive community where regular people can’t afford to live.”
I’m amazed he’s admitted that.
But wait, it gets better.
A member of Missoula’s Neighborhood Works said that if the city did try to bond for this, then “protections would need to be in place for people whose housing stability might be threatened by the higher property taxes necessitated by the bond itself.”
Wow, it seems that some associated with city government are beginning to realize that increased taxes make housing more unaffordable, and also that passing new bonds makes it harder for people to afford housing, or even stay in their current homes.
So we’re making progress.
Or are we?
If Missoula can’t get a bond passed to make housing more affordable, they want to raise taxes.
“Other forms of funding include a local option or resort tax, gas tax, private investments, or a required percentage of tax increment funding, or TIF.”
The only thing I agree with there is the use of TIF money, but you know that the MRA and it’s mayoral-appointed board will fight that tooth and nail.
But hey...they have houses already. Why should they care about the rest of us?