Legislature Montana Politics

I disagree, governor

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“While we still have work to do, tonight Montanans can be pleased,” remarked Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock at the end of the special session.

I am not pleased.

The governor continued, according to the Missoula Current: “We’ve ensured most seniors will still be able to access the prescription drugs they need. We’ve assured most young kids with autism will continue to receive services helping them make developmental gains. We’ve prevented steep tuition increases.”

I put those three words above in bold type. Better phrasing would read that some seniors won’t have access to prescription drugs, some kids with autism won’t get help and tuition will increase, just not as much.

It was a regressive special session with very little bipartisan compromise. The Republicans who negotiated with the governor before the session for a budget formula split in thirds — one-third cuts, one-third transfers and one-third increasing revenue — went back on their word.

You can try putting positive spin on it, governor, but this special session really stank to high heaven.

The most egregious outcome is the Republican bills that slash services are designed to be permanent, no matter how much revenue is generated in coming years.

Republicans also rolled over for CoreCivic, the private prison corporation, accepting a $30 million bribe to renew its Shelby prison contract.

Bullock added, “Tonight we reached a reasonable and responsible compromise to balance our budget and pay for Montana’s record fire season.”

I beg to differ, although Montana’s Lee newspapers echoed the governor:

A special session of the Montana Legislature called to address a budget shortfall adjourned early Thursday morning with a deal that leaves all parties less than satisfied but pleased something was negotiated.

I imagine Republicans are pretty damned satisfied. They got almost everything they wanted. Let’s hear from some of the Democratic legislators:

We showed up to address a budget gap with a balanced, thoughtful approach. The GOP solution we (were) given to balance the budget is lay off workers, discriminate against trans people, and make healthcare more expensive. (Rep. Bryce Bennett, D-Missoula)

We adjourned at 1:00 am and this just about sums it up. Partisan politics at its worse. Also, your Montana GOP just sold you out to a 1.7 billion dollar Tennessee company who incarcerates people for profit. How about those values? (Rep. Ellie Hill, D-Missoula)

And from Rep. Amanda Curtis (D-Butte):

You can try putting positive spin on it, governor, but this special session really stank to high heaven. Republicans need to be held accountable for the suffering they’re inflicting on so many Montana families.

UPDATE: Looks like the media have different takes on the session’s conclusion. First reports were that nobody went away happy but it “reached a reasonable and responsible compromise.” That quote is from Gov. Steve Bullock.

The headline for a story by reporter Chuck Johnson read, “At session’s end, both sides claiming partial victory.”

It now appears that the governor wasn’t all the thrilled with the outcome and will veto legislation that required furloughs for state employees, saying it was “playing politics with people’s lives.”

He also called the Republican package of cuts, transfers and a $30 million deal with a private prison corporation “silly political theatre by and large.”

That’s more like it, governor.

Let’s close this post with Sen. JP Pomnichowski’s (D-Bozeman) measured assessment:

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About the author

Pete Talbot

‘Papa’ Pete Talbot is first and foremost a grandfather to five wonderful grandchildren. Like many Montanans, he has held numerous jobs over the years: film and video producer, a partner in a marketing and advertising firm, a builder and a property manager. He’s served on local and statewide Democratic Party boards. Pete has also been blogging at various sites for over a decade. Ping-pong and skiing are his favorite diversions. He enjoys bourbon.

5 Comments

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  • For a while they disabled comments. However the Montana Post has yet to do a story on the Montana COPP letting two hooligans get away with political corruption… Let’s see if I harass them enough if they’ll do something.

  • My response to the email from Governor Bullock about the “great work” accomplished by the Legislature in the Special Session:
    Governor Bullock–

    Let’s call a spade a spade here. You did NOT reach a reasonable and responsible compromise. If it is MY mother among the seniors that won’t be able to get their prescriptions, “most” is no consolation. If it is MY child with autism who will be denied services to help him develop into a functional member of society, “most” is no help at all.

    If it is me, or my spouse, whose job is lost because of the Republican majority’s ridiculous actions, the fact that you prevented “a lot” of people from losing their jobs doesn’t make my house payment.

    And “we” knuckled under and gave a for-profit corporation with an abominable human rights record another ten years of guaranteed income for a paltry $30 million. No doubt they are gloating about how they fooled those poor suckers in Montana.

    I realize that because of the Republican majority in both houses, your hands were tied in relation to many of these issues. But let’s not whitewash it and say that any of this is even remotely a reasonable and responsible compromise.

  • CoreCivic operates with an annual profit of about $140 million which is generated at an about 9% margin. Montana not only accepted a cheap bribe for unreviewed human confinement conditions; the operating company won’t even see a drop in profit from making that contribution to our state’s coffer.
    Allowing a 9% profit off human confinement within the state of Montana is poor money management – better negotiation would’ve yielded a bare minimum higher lump sum with annualized returns if not lower payments over the course of more than this year’s budgeting process. A short term government leads to future issues.

  • Governor Bullock failed Montana during the special session. Where the heck was he? The GOP took over Helena and walked away with what they wanted. Bullock should have been in front of every camera and in the hallways. He wasn’t. He and his staff just hid in “meetings” that accomplished little.

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