Gov. Steve Bullock recently wrote an opinion piece bragging up Montana’s economy. Perfectly understandable. He’s a politician running for reelection. But economy, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. Let’s see how things look to those of us outside of Helena and in the trenches.
Most likely, Colstrip will lose units 1 and 2, and maybe the whole plant. Think because you don’t live in Colstrip this doesn’t affect you? Think again. Your electric bills could go up as much as a third, maybe more. The Montana coal trust is used to fund roads, water, schools, and infrastructure. Without this source of funding, these services will be cut, or your taxes will increase. There is no alternative. Colstrip is being put out of business by the same fringe environmental groups that are funding the governor’s campaign.
Several timber mills have closed during the Bullock administration, at a cost of countless jobs and devastation to local communities. Has the governor made any progress towards improved timber management which would protect jobs and prevent catastrophic wildfires?
The oil boom is bust. Cattle ranchers are barely breaking even, and wheat farmers are losing money. To be fair, the governor can’t be blamed for global commodity prices, but we should expect our elected officials to tighten their belts during tough times, just like the rest of us do. I’m a part-time citizen legislator and a full-time beef producer. My family knows that when cattle prices are down, you make the old pickup last one more year, you don’t eat out much, and you drive instead of fly if you have to go somewhere.
However, our career politicians don’t seem to have that ability. State spending has grown faster than inflation during the Bullock administration, and now our tax revenues are in a steep decline. The 300 million rainy day fund the governor loves to boast about has been cut in half, and could go much lower. The governor’s Obamacare expansion in 2015 put another 70,000 able bodied, childless adults on the government dole. Montana will have to pick up a larger and larger share of that tab in the coming years.
The 2017 budget will have to include a tax hike, or a disciplined approach to spending. Our current governor has proven himself incapable of the latter.
Before you enter the voting booth this fall ask yourself two questions:
1) Am I better off than I was 4 years ago?
2) How much room is there in the family budget for higher taxes?
Senate President Pro Tempore
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