Montana’s Mounting Fiscal Woes

by William Skink

While Montana burns the state’s fiscal situation is turning into its own version of a dumpster fire. Will there be a special session to deal with the cataclysmic budget cuts triggered by Senate Bill 261 made worse by the cost of dealing with a state on fire?

The cost of fighting fires will get a lot of attention, which makes sense. Republicans and Democrats breathe the same air, as do their constituents, so the need to fund the state’s effort to respond to wild fire will be a top priority.

What won’t get a lot of attention is the hot air Steve Bullock expelled in order to placate his party ahead of the disastrous SB 261 compromise they allowed to pass with nary a peep of concern.

Without the attention from Logicosity (Buyer’s Remorse Part I, Part II and Part III) I would have no idea how stragetically incompetent the Bullock administration was during this year’s legislative session. Here’s a snippet from Part I:

In the final days of the 2017 legislative session, Governor Bullock and his crew convened a low-profile meeting of legislative D’s to line up support for an end-of-session “deal.”

Senate Bill 261 (SB 261) was a central topic. The chief executive assured the assembled at worst the bill would trigger only the first two levels (of four) of cuts called for in the proposed legislation.

Level 1 and Level 2 and that’s all, he said.

With that assurance, the D dutifully rolled over and let the bill pass. A short time late, Bullock affixed his signature.

After the session was over, and all four levels of cuts were triggered, lowly service providers were suddenly blindsided by news of the chainsaw about to enact havoc on their budgets. By then it was too late, Bullock had already signed SB 261 into law.

Montana’s many destructive fires producing real smoke will also produce a smoke screen for Montana’s economic woes. The story that won’t be told is how loyal Democrats allowed their Governor, Steve Bullock, to create a budget time bomb in collusion with Montana Republicans that is now blowing up the critical services so many vulnerable Montanans rely on.

If there is a special session, what leverage does Bullock have left? I’m sure the State’s ability to fight fires will have an attentive audience, since anyone who requires breathing to live will probably be curious about what can be done to keep our air from being unhealthy, but what about all the people impacted by the cuts Montana Democrats let pass without a fight?

Will Montana Democrats simply blame Republicans, hoping the real story of how SB 261 became law stays contained to blogs hardly anyone reads, or will they do the right thing and acknowledge they got taken for a ride?

About Travis Mateer

I'm an artist and citizen journalist living and writing in Montana. You can contact me here: willskink at yahoo dot com
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4 Responses to Montana’s Mounting Fiscal Woes

  1. dennis flagen says:

    If you read the news releases from the Montana Democrat Party on their website there is not a single article on the the serious situation on the state budget and the horrific cuts. No but Nancy Keenan continues to play identity politics with statement regarding the Helena Fountain removal and the continued negative statements against ,Daines and Gianforte which well deserved but no plan how to defeat these low lives. Well if Bullock continues to led from behind there will be no point in a special session other then drain some money off another agency to pay for fires. Unless he has a plan other then offering up the lam tax the rich again which we know never passes the cuts will stay in place.

  2. Big Swede says:

    I don’t hear anyone speculating on the real reason Bullock signed SB 261.

    The real reason was to show that he’s fiscally responsible when it come to governmental budgets. Knowing he’s term limited out he’s aspiring for a higher office.

    Screw MT, I’m outta here.

    • JC says:

      I’ve speculated. Bullock is just another neoliberal politician who took the easy route of burying austerity in the fine print of a bill he supported. As to higher office, yeah good luck with that. He’s got about as much charisma and name recognition as the bum steer at the end of the lane.

  3. *Eric says:

    Bullock is a lightweight, but he’s been in a tough situation, because of a couple of things, his sticking to the Dem ideology, and the mess left by Gov. BS.

    Gov BS took a functioning State Government, with a budget surplus, hired an additional 1000 state employees, and increased State Spending 25%, thinking that the next administration could simply keep upping taxes to cover it.

    And, I agree with Logicosity, that the Bullock team are inept bumblers when it comes to dealing with the legislature. They were “Playing checkers while their opponents were playing chess”.

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