Education Montana Politics Ryan Zinke Steve Daines

The Ryan-Daines-Zinke Budget Will Make College Unaffordable for Montana Students

Given that both Representative Steve Daines and State Senator Ryan Zinke have expressed enthusiastic support for the Paul Ryan budget, with the former voting for it and the latter suggesting it doesn’t go far enough, it seems warranted to look at how the budget that both men support would affect the people of Montana.

Over the next few days, we’ll take a look past the abstract idea of the budget to the specific implementation here in Montana, starting with college affordability.

The Ryan-Daines-Zinke budget will cap Pell Grants at their current maximum for the next ten years:

Under the proposal, the maximum Pell Grant award would be frozen at the current $5,730 amount for the next 10 years. The budget would also leave all of the Pell Grant program’s funding up to the discretion of Congress each year, eliminating the mandatory funding stream that currently funds part of the program

Anyone with a passing familiarity about the cost of colleges knows that tutition and fees will certainly not be frozen over the next decade. In fact, between 2008-09 and 2013-14, tuition and fees at public four year colleges and universities increased by 27% over the rate of inflation. Freezing Pell Grant amounts will result in fewer students being able to afford to attend college.

In fact, according to Roger Riddell, the proposal will further reduce the value of Pell Grants, which have already seen a significant decline in the amount of college they pay for. He writes “Pell Grants, which once covered more than half of college costs for lower-income students and now cover about a third, would be frozen for the next decade and see around a 24% reduction by 2024.”

Despite claims that the cuts are to ensure that Pell Grants are only for the “truly needy,” the Ryan-Daines-Zinke cuts ignore the reality that Pell Grants are primarily awarded to students who come from families with low incomes. Stephen Steingleder explains:

According to the U.S. Department of Education, 74 percent of Pell Grant recipients have annual family incomes of $30,000 or less. Moreover, in 2011 Congress lowered the threshold from $30,000 to $23,000 for a student to automatically qualify for an “estimated family contribution” of zero dollars. That change makes it more difficult for low-income students to qualify for the maximum amount of financial aid

The cuts will be devastating for working class families, who will see the better future offered by further education become an even more unreachable goal.  Back in 2011, when Representative Rehberg called Pell Grants “welfare,” 24,000 students in Montana received the awards, a number likely to be even higher today.

That Representative Daines and State Senator Zinke would support these devastating cuts is especially problematic, given the huge debt Montana students face after college right now. According to the Project on Student Debt, the average Montana student graduating a public university in the state leaves with $27,475 in debt, 18th highest in the country.

If you want to ensure economic opportunity for Montanans, the last thing prospective members of the Senate or House should do is to propose cutting the program that best gives those living in poverty a chance to get a college degree. That Mr. Zinke and Mr. Daines agree with Paul Ryan, that tax cuts for millionaires are more important than grants for students, demonstrates they just aren’t looking out for the people they pretend or hope to represent.


If you appreciate an independent voice holding Montana politicians accountable and informing voters, and you can throw a few dollars a month our way, we would certainly appreciate it.


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  • Jeebus! Herr Zstinke lived on the gummint TIT his entire adult life! Paul Ryan sucked large too! And Pee Wee Daines was BORN into sleazy wealth! Wealth without work, one of the seven deadly sins according to Ghandi! These guys suck!

  • Ghandi on Teabilly a**holes!

    •Wealth without Work
    •Pleasure without Conscience
    •Science without Humanity
    • Knowledge without Character
    •Politics without Principle
    •Commerce without Morality
    •Worship without Sacrifice

    Yup. Mohandes had the teatards in mind!

  • Who IS this empty suit daines? Simply a corporate tool.

    Strategy, money, luck aid Steve Daines’ ascendance

    By Matt Volz

    Associated Press

    HELENA — Steve Daines has rocketed from the unknown to being the face of the Montana Republican Party and the favorite to take a U.S. Senate seat that has been in Democratic control for a century, all before completing a full term in Congress.

    To hear the Bozeman Republican tell it, his rise is the product of “oldfashioned retail politics” that still matter in the vast smallness of Montana. That means heading to far-out places, getting to know people over coffee and listening to their problems.

    “I’ve got a grill guard on my truck and we travel all over Montana,” he told The Associated Press in a recent interview.

    But there’s more to that kind of success than gathering road dust. It takes a little luck, some careful strategy and a whole lot of money. Daines, 52, got lucky when former U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg exited politics after losing the 2012 U.S. Senate race against incumbent Jon Tester, leaving Daines the undisputed top dog of the GOP. His luck struck again when Democratic opponent, U.S. Sen. John Walsh, dropped out of this year’s race. The party selected Rep. Amanda Curtis of Butte to run with no money and little name recognition.

    Then there is the strategy. Since a failed run for lieutenant governor in 2008, Daines has run for only open seats, not against incumbents.

    He considered running against Tester in 2012, but then switched to the House race when Rehberg announced that he was leaving the seat open to campaign for Senate.

    Last year, Daines announced his run for Senate in 2014 when U.S. Sen. Max Baucus said he wouldn’t run for another term.

    Montana State University political scientist David Parker called Daines an “ambitious amateur” who has run at the right time for various offices. “He chose his moments carefully,” Parker said.

    Finally, there is the money. Daines spent 27 years in the private sector working for the corporate giant Procter & Gamble and then for a technology startup called Right-Now Technologies that was bought

    by another corporate giant, Oracle.

    Those connections helped Daines create a network of deep-pocketed donors who have helped fund his $5 million campaign to date.

    Procter & Gamble was listed as Daines’ third-biggest donor as of the end of June, with employees and political-action committees donating more than $27,000 by the end of June, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

    He also has received the support of RightNow’s influential founder, Greg Gianforte.

    With that money, a successful strategy and a little luck, Daines has built the brand that he lacked in 2012. But how well do the voters know the man?

    “Most voters will vote for him because they know who he is, and they have the vague impression that he is a decent guy,” Parker said. “Do they have much depth of knowledge beyond that for Steve Daines? I think not.”

    Democratic Party spokesman Bryan Watt called Daines an “empty suit” who will say or do anything to get elected, and whose time in Congress was spent supporting measures to privatize Medicare, sell off public land and support the interests of the wealthy at the expense of the middle and lower class.

    “Daines was born on third base and thinks he hit a home run. He doesn’t have the first idea of what it means to be a working Montanan, to struggle to put food on the table, and to make ends meet,” Watt said.

    Daines said his career has been about putting Montana first. When he was away from the state he loves, he was looking for ways to get back, he said.

    Daines got his start with Procter & Gamble in 1984 as an entry level manager in Iowa City, Iowa, after graduating from Montana State University. There, he met his wife, Cindy, who was a student.

    They moved to Guangzhou, China, in January 1992, as Procter & Gamble was looking to expanding into the emerging Chinese market.

    Montana Democrats have portrayed Daines’ time then as working to open factories in China while the company was laying off workers in the U.S. Daines said he was there to build and expand American brands overseas.

    Daines quit Procter & Gamble to return to Montana in 1997 and worked as a vice president for his father’s construction company until he joined RightNow in 2000, where he stayed until his House run.

    Daines’ has introduced nearly two dozen bills and amendments with limited success — one of the banes of being a freshman in a deadlocked Congress.

    Parker previously analyzed Daines’ House votes and said he was the most conservative congressman from Montana since World War II.

    Despite his brief legislative experience, Daines said he is ready to take a seat in the Senate.

    “That will be up to the people, if I’m ready,” he said. “I’m always learning, any job that I’ve done. I’m up to the task

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Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is an eighteen-year teacher of English, former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.
His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.
In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.

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