There are times when I come to close to wondering if the people Montana Republicans send to the Legislature aren’t part of the most elaborate hoax ever conducted by Punk’d. Billings Representative Rodney Garcia has done little to abate these concerns, as the freshman representative Billings who spent his campaign railing against socialism proposed today that the state of Montana borrow $500 million to buy the power plant at Colstrip and turn its management over to a five-person government board.
Hugo Chavez would be proud.
Garcia’s scheme comes a week after a report that found the free market has killed twice as many coal plants in President Trump’s first two years than in President Obama’s entire term. Garcia not only wants to maintain the Republican strategies of ignoring climate change and the market forces that are making coal production less and less profitable every year, but he wants to hang the people of Montana with an economic albatross that will never pay for itself.
Garcia’s bill manages to offer the almost impossible combination of a massive corporate giveaway to a failing industry and a pivot to state-owned power production.
Garcia implausibly claims that he is proposing this legislation because his “Billings’ South Side [constituents] asked him to do something to save the power plant, which supports the city of Colstrip’s 2,300 residents.” Somehow I imagine that the good people of Billings want other things from their legislators–like the improved schools, roads, healthcare, and infrastructure that Republicans always claim we can’t afford–rather than to artificially prop up a community that’s a two-hour drive from their concerns.
I don’t think anyone should mistake my mockery of Representative Garcia with a lack of concern about the people of Colstrip, but if we have $500,000,000 to spend to prop up an increasingly uncompetitive power plant to fuel Mr. Garcia’s Marxist dreams of state-owned power, couldn’t the state sensibly spend money to retrain Colstrip workers for the economy of the 21st century, not the 18th?