“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.
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: