We recently met with Gov. Steve Bullock and the two minority leaders of the Montana Legislature to discuss Montana’s failing economy and budget issues due to the governor’s closures.
While we appreciated the rare opportunity to discuss the pressing issues facing Montanans with the governor, this meeting merely served as a press conference for the governor’s campaign with hand-picked members of the press, and provided no opportunity to have substantive conversations about the challenges facing Montana families.
As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Bullock has been faced with many decisions on pressing issues for our state – issues that Montanans deserve transparency from their leaders on how they are being handled.
Perhaps most notably, Montana received $1.25 billion in assistance from the federal government during the first part of April to help our state manage and recover from this crisis. To advise him on the distribution of these dollars, Gov. Bullock appointed a 26-member task force that has exclusively conducted its meetings in private. As the sole authority tasked with distributing this taxpayer relief to Montanans, Gov. Bullock has failed to give Montanans an ounce of transparency on how these funds are being distributed.
To date, Gov. Bullock has disbursed less than 5% of these funds to Montanans, while a backlog of nearly 10,000 applications for grant requests from businesses and individuals await their fate by the pen of the Bullock Administration.
We strongly maintain our support for the recommendation of Sen. Steve Daines and the United States Treasury, that Montana give $500 million of the $1.25 billion directly to communities and counties to disburse promptly and accurately according to local needs. Gov. Bullock has instead chosen to maintain complete control over the distribution of these taxpayer dollars, and has failed time and time again to deliver them to Montanans with any sense of urgency.
Gov. Bullock has likewise continued to ignore the coming economic crisis for the budgets of our state and local governments. As families and businesses across the state are reducing their spending, Gov. Bullock won’t even consider a modest 5% spending reduction for the next fiscal year – nor does he seem to be concerned about possible future budget problems facing Montana.
We urge Gov. Bullock to change course immediately on the budget by reducing spending like all other Montanans during this crisis. We also strongly encourage the governor to offer more transparency to Montanans on his private meetings regarding the $1.25 billion in relief, and promptly accelerate the process of getting this money to the families, businesses, and local governments that it is intended to help.
Scott Sales, R-Bozeman, is president of the Montana Senate and Greg Hertz, R-Polson, is speaker of the Montana House.
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