We’ve all had the good fortune of reading Senator Llew Jones’s editorial as it’s traveled across Montana in the company rags. Llew is all set to ‘tighten the government’s purse strings’ in the fashion he already started with his now executed SB 261. And to read his words as he wrote them you would think this all just came to be in the last few months. Jones seems to have a short view of history, not even back to 2005 when he first plopped down into a creaky wooden chair in the House chambers for the first time. But it’s not uncommon for legislators to shrug off sessions they weren’t a part of when it suits their needs. In this case, it was just one session before in 2003 that Jones should be taking into consideration.
If you were to believe his view of Montana you’d believe that most Montanan’s are out wrangling cattle, raising crops or pulling up the shades on the general store on Main Street. Certainly, the commodities have suffered and there is no doubt the stability of those markets does have an impact on Montana’s economy. It’s also important to remember that Montana has a diverse economy that is doing better than Jones would have you believe. The majority of Montanan’s live in far more urban areas of the state than Conrad. In fact, it’s safe to say that most Montanan’s primary contact with wheat and beef is when they take a bite out of a cheeseburger.
Those forms of revenue that Jones laid out do indeed matter. However, there is another and more long term story playing out that Jones and his gang are casually ignoring. A guest post in Montana Cowgirl spells out the history of what Jones neglects to mention or even acknowledge. Reductions in business taxes and personal income taxes of the highest earners has finally come home to roost. Back then in 2003 even former budget director and long time legislator Dave Lewis called it a ‘black hole’ and coming from a guy like Lewis, that’s saying something.
So back to Big Llew. His last few sessions have been a good run for him with plenty of thick steaks and whiskey. He’s built himself a fine perch in the political arena ofMontana. For the moderates, he’s in the lead and kept close by the far right. For the not so far left he’s obviously gained their trust and confidence. If you don’t believe that only have a look at the final House vote of his now famed and session ending SB 261. But don’t be too harsh on the D’s, it was their way home. And then there’s organized labor who see him as their ‘go to guy’ to help move legislation and carry a little water. In some circles he’s even been called a ‘colossus’. The same colossus who now encourages the Governor to have union members pack up their desks and ultimately stop paying dues.
Jones’s SB 261 was merely a precursor to where we have landed today with far deeper budget cuts that will not just end the careers and livelihoods of state employees but campus, county and city workers as well. When Jones talks about a ‘…main street businessman who’s customers will have little money to spend…’ he is also referring to the spending power of those now out of work government folks. But take heart you government workers, Jones and his ilk know you are ‘good people hired to do a job’. Feel better?
If you’ve spent even a small amount of time around Big Llew during his now 12 years in the Legislature then you’ve heard him talk about ‘tightening our belts’ more than once. Perhaps this helps redefine irony yet again: A 350 pound middle aged white man in suspenders lecturing about belt tightening. Go figure.
‘Maybe all men got one big soul ever’body’s a part of.’