As the 2017 legislative session has come to an end, we want to make sure that Montanans have a clear view of what’s happened the past few months in Helena. The mission of the Senate and House Republicans from Day One has been to help create more opportunities for all Montanans by making our state a better place to work, live and do business. Government should work in service to the people, not the other way around. In large part this means fighting against policies that increase taxes, grow government and take from the citizens of Montana.
When the Legislature arrived in January, we were faced with a budget on the brink of crisis. Our $300 million cash reserve had been spent almost entirely down after the legislators left town in 2015. As a fix, Gov. Steve Bullock was proposing adding millions in new taxes – including sales taxes – to make up for missing revenue. This move didn’t fly with the majority Republican Legislature, which chose to closely examine the workings of state government and find areas where efficiency could be improved before asking Montanans for more of their hard-earned money.
Through the work of strong conservative leadership, the Legislature created a two-year budget that balances and funds essential programs, while leaving a cushion for daily government operations. By focusing on efficiency, the budget slows the growth of government while ensuring that essential services are paid for, like our local schools and services for those who need them most.
There have been many other success stories from the 2017 Legislative Session – small and large. Local school districts are able to budget with certainty after the Legislature provided an inflationary funding increase in the first few weeks of the year. Significant reforms were made in Montana’s Department of Corrections system to ensure that violent offenders are kept off the streets. Extra checks were put in place to ensure that children in foster care and social services are adequately cared for. A plan was formed to fight the spread of invasive species on our waterways, and efforts to improve access to Montana’s great outdoors were championed by our party.
Montana taxpayers will see their hard-earned dollars at work in their communities in the coming months and years, with over $1 billion that will be spent on essential infrastructure to repair water and sewer systems, bridges and roads.
In addition, the Legislature was successful in holding Bullock accountable and adding transparency to state government so that a crisis like the one we walked into in January won’t happen again. The Budget Stabilization Plan will reduce volatility in the budget, increase transparency of the executive branch and create long-term budget stabilization.
It is not the job of the government to fix all problems for all people, but it is our duty to make Montana a better place for future generations, and set the groundwork for Montana to prosper. We would like to thank all of the elected representatives who left their homes and lives for close to 90 days to serve our great state.
Senate President Scott Sales, Senate Majority Leader Fred Thomas, Senate Pro Tem Bob Keenan; House Speaker Austin Knudsen, House Majority Leader Ron Ehli, House Pro Tem Greg Hertz.