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2020 Governor Featured Greg Gianforte Montana Politics

Greg Gianforte Promises to Cut 30% of State Funding for Schools, Health Care, Infrastructure, and Highways

In 2016, it was clear that Greg Gianforte would be a disaster as governor: a threat to human rights, public education, public lands, and the truth.

It turns out we may have underestimated just how dangerous he’d be.

Gianforte, you see, wants to gut vital government services by a whopping 30% in the first two years of a term if he’s elected. Former Republican legislator Walter McNutt explains:

At a gubernatorial campaign fundraiser, Congressman Gianforte pledged to cut taxes 30% over his first two years. The promise of “huge tax cuts” is attractive, but ‘voter beware’: tasty bait often hides painful hooks.

State government runs on income taxes. Local cities, counties, and schools run on property taxes. 91% of state taxes support locally delivered services, the big three being education, healthcare, and incarceration. Montana’s Balanced Budget Amendment prevents deficit spending, so… under a Balanced Budget Amendment, cutting taxes 30% would force 30% spending cuts!

Imagine the implications of a 30% cut to your local public schools. A 30% cut to our already substandard highways and infrastructure projects. A 30% cut to budgets for courts and public health?

It would be devastating, an unnatural disaster wrought by a multimillionaire who has repeatedly made it clear that he cares more about his wealth than the well-being of Montanans.

If he would deign to meet with voters outside of closed-door gatherings with donors, perhaps Gianforte would try to make you believe that tax cuts would be some kind of economic miracle and pay for themselves. You don’t need to take the word of liberals or experts to know that’s just not true. The empirical example of the Kansas Experiment ably demonstrated it just will not work:

Brownback and his supporters predicted that cutting taxes would create jobs and spur entrepreneurship while boosting government revenue. That isn’t what happened. Kansas’s economy has performed reasonably well since the first cuts were passed in 2012, but its neighbors’ economies have done as well if not better; a recent study concluded that the business tax cuts at the heart of Brownback’s plan had little if any impact on the state’s economy. Meanwhile, the state’s fiscal condition fell off a cliff: Tax revenue plunged, creating huge budget shortfalls and leading ratings agencies to downgrade the state’s credit rating.

It got so bad in Kansas that Republican legislators rolled back the Governor’s massive tax cuts to save their state.

And Montanans don’t need to look to Kansas to guess who would benefit from Gianforte’s planned tax cuts. He’d starve public schools so that the rich could eat more. The last time a Montana Republican governor and Legislature slashed taxes, the people of Montana were deprived of a billion dollars of vital services so that millionaires could take massive tax cuts:

“These tax cuts made Montana’s tax system less equitable and have cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars, at a time when our communities face increased needs in K-12 education, school facilities, and crumbling bridges and roads,” said Heather O’Loughlin, Co-Director of MBPC. “In 2006, households making more than $500,000 received an average tax cut of $30,500 a year per household which is what most Montanans make in a year. Meanwhile, those making less than $65,000 a year received about $23.”

There’s nothing new about a political candidate trying to get elected by promising to cut taxes, but the level of cuts Gianforte envisions is the viewpoint of someone who wants to slash government services, public education, and infrastructure to the bone, the kind of policy someone who paid almost no property taxes on land worth over $500,000 while his hardworking neighbors paid thousands would think is just.

Montana needs strong public schools to educate our kids. It needs highways and bridges to conduct business. It even needs prisons and jails to hold those convicted of crimes. Electing Greg Gianforte would jeopardize our ability to do all of those things because he’d rather see millionaires at the Yellowstone Club prosper than ensure we have a functioning government.

Surely the Montana media will ask Gianforte to explain how in the world he would pay for his disastrous tax cut, who it would benefit, and how Montana could function without that revenue.

Montanans owe a debt to Representative McNutt for letting us know what Gianforte is promising, and one can only hope the Montana press will take a break from printing Gianforte’s breathless press releases about impeachment to report on Gianforte’s tax plan.

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.

About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba has been writing about Montana politics since 2005 and teaching high school English since 2000. He's a 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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  • Standard far-right maneuver – – ram through a massive tax cut, primarily benefiting the wealthiest, of course, then poor-mouth the horrible state of the budget and take a meat-axe to every service or program that benefits the working class.

    We’ve seen what 16 years of cooperation and negotiation between a moderate administration and responsible, conscientious legislators can do for Montana. Do we really want to turn our health and well-being over to the likes of Gianforte working with the hard-right core group that infests the Legislature? I certainly hope not.

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