At a gubernatorial campaign fundraiser, Congressman Greg Gianforte pledged to cut taxes 30 percent over his first two years. The promise of “huge tax cuts” is attractive, but “voter beware”: tasty bait often hides painful hooks.
State government runs on income taxes. Local cities, counties and schools run on property taxes. Ninety-one percent of state taxes support locally delivered services, the big three being education, health care, and incarceration. Montana’s Balanced Budget Amendment prevents deficit spending, so under a Balanced Budget Amendment, cutting taxes 30 percent would force 30 percent spending cuts!
Fifty-one percent of state taxes and 70 percent of property taxes pay for Montana’s education services. K-12 schools spend most of their budget on teacher salaries. Gianforte and his team are not public education supporters, but still it’s difficult to believe they could expect successful student outcomes after chopping teachers’ salaries or cutting teachers by 30 percent.
The second largest budget expenditure in government is health care: hospitals, nursing homes, mental health, child protection. What if Montana was forced to close 10-30 percent of our nursing homes and hospitals?
The third largest government budget expenditure is public safety: police, fire, ambulance and prison services. Would you want ambulance, fire, police and snowplowing services reduced 30 percent in your community? Should we release 30 percent of those currently incarcerated?
Politicians who speak eloquently of slashing government services need to be held accountable. We need to demand Gianforte detail how his tax cuts would not decimate our children’s education, our senior citizens’ health care and our community safety.
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