There’s been some heat in the news lately about “triggers“, “state fire fund“, “healthcare“, “Montana State Library“, “Montana Historical Society“, and the demon that spawned it all Senate Bill 261. It seems appropriate as Montana valleys fill with the smoke from forest fires that we take some time to contemplate how this austerity measure came into being and the likelihood it will leave a swath of scorched earth in its wake. Rumblings from around the capitol indicate that before the end of August the revenue shortfall will be such that cuts will extend into tier four budget cuts. Below is a list of the proposed cuts as outlined in the bill as well as the proposed revenue triggers that will automatically implement the budget reductions.
The devil’s bargain
As the fallout begins with the pending cuts to services and layoffs of state employees, there is considerable head scratching, not much finger pointing, and plenty of blame to go around. Regardless of what you read or hear, this was a bipartisan bill that passed the senate and house by wide margins before Governor Bullock signed it into law. Follow the links and truth will shine a light on naysayers and aye-sayers alike. Say that three times fast!
The chief architects, however, Senator Llew Jones (R-Conrad) and state budget director
Dan Villa (aka Pancho and Lefty) have managed to fly under the turbulence created by their backroom deal. Look as you might, but try as you might, you won’t find the smokin’ gun because these savvy individuals know how to cover their back trail; they’ve had three sessions to hone their partnership and bring on board just enough “tools”, right and left, to make the whole thing work. As chair of the senate finance and claims committee, Jones carriers a lot of weight when it comes to the budget and unlike his counterpart, chair Nancy Ballance of House Appropriations, he knows how to work his caucus.
Psst! You tell them the Republicans are to blame and I’ll say it’s the Democrats.
Obviously the leadership on both sides of the aisle were aware of the deal on SB 261, to deliver a satisfactory budget that Governor Bullock would sign negating the possibility of a special session. This despite the disparity between revenue estimates from the governor’s budget office and the legislative fiscal division. Equally confusing, or not, was the willingness of Governor Bullock and budget director Villa to accept the higher estimate from LFD. When has that ever happened…NEVER! Can you smell the brimstone now or is it sausage making? Either way, we ended up with triggers to the left, triggers to the right, and a number of innocent bystanders who will actually feel the pinch from the loss of services and employment.
But perhaps the most irritating aspect of the budget deal is the rising tide of voices bemoaning the coming cuts. The rending of cloth and wearing of sackcloth and ashes from some Democrats and a pithy comment from Conrad, “government has to learn to live within its means.” Pandering to the small government masses and buttressing one of the three pillars of conservatism. And then fires breakout in Garfield County and grow to over 250,000 acres. Oops!
Apparently a 90 day sessions stretches the ability of some of our citizen legislators to read, comprehend, and debate the implications of the legislation they vote on. It just goes to show you, if you wait long enough, obfuscate a little, finish it off with a beguiling smile and a third round infrastructure bill double cross, doodoo gets overlooked until some poor rube steps in it. CRAP!
T-Bone Slim – “Wherever you find injustice, the proper form of politeness is attack.”