Montanans expect a lot out of their elected officials, as well they should. Without regard to political party, they expect us to work together when we can and explain our differences with honesty when we cannot. They expect us to spend less time on spats in Helena, and more time on getting to work and strengthening our communities. More than anything, Montanans expect their elected officials to talk straight and be honest.
Unfortunately for all Montanans, some Republicans in Montana are starting to act a lot like Republicans in Washington, D.C.
There is an old saying that goes, “If you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes the truth.” That’s what some legislators like Senate Majority Leader Fred Thomas and House Majority Leader Ron Ehli are trying to do – disregard their actions over the past 18 months, forget the previous statements they have made, shift dodge and evade until, finally, Montanans forget.
The reality is Gov. Steve Bullock would have not called a special session unless it was absolutely necessary. He did so to prevent a full $227 million in cuts to services that would have been detrimental to Montana communities and that would have completely eliminated valuable services that Montanans need.
By calling a special session, Bullock prevented $150 million of those cuts from occurring. He did so despite many of those in Republican leadership calling on him, publicly, to make the entire $227 million in drastic cuts.
The Republican-controlled Legislature rejected the fiscally responsible, balanced budget that Bullock proposed – and now they want to pass the buck.
They want Montanans to forget that they caused a $100 million revenue estimating error that threw the budget off course for the foreseeable future. They want Montanans to forget that they bled the rainy-day-fund dry prior to the start of the worst fire season in the history of Montana. And they especially want Montanans to forget that every single Republican voted for each and every cut during last November’s special legislative session, and made them permanent.
We cannot let the example of national politics become the norm of Montana governing. I spent 12 years in the Montana State Legislature and never before have I seen such deceit.
From now until the start of Montana’s next legislative session in 2019, Bullock and I will be having the tough discussions about how we can bring in new revenues, update our tax system to reflect Montana’s strong economy, and make smart investments in Montana families, communities, and our most vulnerable populations. We won’t be spending our time making sure Montanans forget, we will work to fix it.
We ought to set an example for the entire country of how we govern best by finding common ground and common solutions. Bullock has always said that he is willing to work with anyone who will meet him halfway. Rather than acting like those in D.C., Republicans in Montana should be honest, take responsibility, and join Bullock in doing the hard work of getting the budget back on track.
Mike Cooney is the lieutenant governor of Montana.
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