In an attempt to be provocative, I guess, columnist George Ochenski blames Democrats for the suffering about to be heaped on Montana’s most vulnerable.
The facts escape him: the first being that Republicans have majorities in the Montana Senate and House.
The second is that Republicans have chewed away at Montana’s tax base since 2003, when they, along with Republican Gov. Judy Martz, reduced tax brackets from 10 to six. That meant someone earning $15,000 a year paid the same rate as someone making $1 million. It also cost our state over $976 million by the end of 2016, the Montana Budget and Policy Center reported.
The third fact is the proposed $75 million in budget cuts comes “after we’ve already made $196 million in cuts this year alone and $350 million since 2013,” according to House Minority Leader Jenny Eck (D-Helena).
But it’s not the Republicans, Ochenski suggests, that rained down such destruction on state services. Democrats just didn’t have a strategy to counter the GOP mantra of shrinking government by cutting taxes.
But how does one deal with the Republican game plan? From House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nancy Ballance (R-Hamilton):
“Raising taxes was a non-starter, even though we got thousands of letters from people saying ‘Please raise taxes. We need these services,’”
Which is an incredible admission — sort of a “screw you.” She continues:
“But we knew that raising taxes only hurts vulnerable people, and the hard-working people of Montana who were already struggling.”
Let’s look at the revenue (tax) increases proposed by our Democratic legislators and governor: higher taxes on the wealthy, a tax on rental cars and lodging, and a tobacco tax. Doesn’t seem like there’s much damage being done to the “vulnerable people, and the hard-working people of Montana” and certainly less harm with a tobacco tax if it encourages folks to get that nasty nicotine monkey off their back.
Parroting the GOP, Ochenski explains what a typical Montana family should do when faced with a budget shortfall:
The changes most Montanans would make would be cutting back on their spending and prioritize existing funds to their most critical needs.
No mention in his column of trying to raise more revenue, which is another way Montanans balance their budgets.
The opinion piece is headlined: “Democratic Party: Discouraged, disgusted, dysfunctional.”
“I’ve said it before and will say it again… ” That’s Ochenski on Democrats needing to get their house in order. There’s some truth to that. But what’s your strategy, George? What’s your message? How are Democrats going to pick up seats in 2018 and beyond?
He has this to say about the Democrats, “…what Montanans are hearing are high-pitched whines about the evil Republicans.” Sounds like there’s plenty of whining coming from Ochenski as well.