As Montana life rolls on, we find our economy in the all too familiar position; lagging behind. In a state heavy with natural resources, we have in the past relied on a tax base from those resources. That tax base has funded essential services like education, direct health care workers, Department of Transportation, etc. Now we find ourselves in a bind as the implementation of environmental neglect eclipses the past productivity of a healthy, sustainable, useful management of our state resources. Whichever side of the issue you fall on the math of our management is becoming increasingly evident. Shutting down and shutting out Montanans of our own environment has caused a shortfall in funding essential services. I agree with Gov. Steve Bullock’s budget director when he spoke of the timber industry losing Montana mills, and further said, now our No. 1 industry is health care. Health care that has become a multi-million-dollar business. He is quoted, “Mills paid property tax, hospitals do not.” This shift away from natural resources is the long-term problem that we as Montana need to wrestle. Fortunately there is a short-term fix that Gov. Bullock fails to implement. Our governor has proposed a 10 percent across the board cut to our state departments. This would abruptly leave those that use essential state services desperately searching.
A 10 percent across the board cut is not leadership. There are multiple millions of dollars that can be saved in state bureaucracy. Currently there are six state-run, free medical clinics, for only state employees. State employees already have very good, state paid, medical insurance plans. These exclusive clinics exist so that state employees don’t have to pay a co-pay of a few dollars, and they don’t have to wait in line with the rest of Montana at the local community hospital. This is a duplicate waste of Montanans’ tax dollars to the tune of $26.1 million since 2012. Another questionable Gov. Bullock expenditure is the Montana Developmental Center at Boulder. There is $12.6 million in a exclusive fund for a 12-bed mental hospital that is not taking any new patients. That’s right, $12 million for 12 beds, and the state is phasing out the facility. Does it really take over a million dollars a bed to operate? These are just a couple instances of millions spent in the wrong place.
Cuts are always hard, but there are multiple cases of state spending cuts that can temporarily balance the state checkbook and protect essentials services. Care for the vulnerable does not need be to be cut. Gov. Bullock’s 10 percent across the board cut is not leadership.
Rep. Matt Regier
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