by William Skink
As we head into 2018 Montanans are faced with two competing narratives for the state of our state. The narrative coming from the Governor’s office is one of delusional optimism because Steve Bullock wants to look good as he grooms himself for higher office. The other narrative can be pieced together from the stories beginning to come out about what the impacts of the budget crisis will mean for those experiencing the fear and uncertainty of lost services and support:
AWARE Inc., a large private provider of mental health and disability services to more than 3,000 individuals and families statewide with about 1,000 employees, shut down its office and two group homes in Kalispell this fall, eliminating 20 jobs and displacing at-risk children to other residential facilities and providers, although many families are still without services.
On the heels of those downsizing efforts, WMMHC, AWARE and other agencies are still facing additional cuts emanating from the regular legislative session and a special session convened in November to address the state’s budget crisis, caused by lower-than-expected revenues and exacerbated by a costly wildfire season.
Daly said she is “waiting with bated breath” to see what the forthcoming cuts look like in their final form as the governor’s office works out the finer details.
“We’re still waiting for the second shoe to drop as it relates to the governor’s cuts,” Daly said.
As Steve Bullock blows sunshine out of his ass, the reality is we still don’t know how bad these cuts will be. Here is another story, this one from the Missoulian:
An estimated 2,100 Montanans who have developmental disabilities will no longer be able to get targeted case management services from four existing providers statewide starting this spring.
The reduction in services, a product of state budget cuts, also means the loss of more than 70 jobs across the four organizations.
State officials have told the organizations the state will absorb some of the workload after the cuts, but no one was available Wednesday to describe how that would work.
Even positive development for some—like a booming economy in Bozeman—means increased struggles for others, like the rapidly increasing homeless population that can’t afford the skyrocketing cost of housing. MTPR has that story, which includes one young man’s account of working full time at $12 dollars an hour and still not being able to afford a place to live:
Shawn Christy is standing near some lockers, wearing a goatee and stocking cap. He’s been a guest here for more than a month. I ask him why he’s here tonight.
“Just because I don’t have to pay anything to be here,” Christy says.
Like a lot of guests at The Warming Center, Christy has a job but no home. He works full-time as a dishwasher making $12 an hour and says Bozeman is an pricey place to live.
“Even to get a low-end place would be like half a month’s work for me,” Christy says. “Between clothes and food there’s not a lot of room for housing.”
Over the past six years, the cost of a house in Gallatin County has risen by more than 50 percent while wages have remained relatively stagnant. This means many working people can’t afford a place to live and an increasing number end up homeless.
Montana will be experiencing further economic woes thanks to the disastrous tax cut legislation pushed through to conclude a disastrous year, creating an estimated 60-70 million dollar budget shortfall. Will it get bad enough for enough people to wake up to the class war being waged against them?
Life under this American Kakocracy will continue to deteriorate in 2018. If you don’t know what a Kakocracy is, I made a little video of my artistic interpretation of the term. Happy New Year.