Job-killing move at the legislature
NOTE: As of Feb. 18, some of the numbers in the article below have changed. MEA-MFT is now compiling new information. The cut for K-12 schools is now $51 million below the governor's budget. Our message remains the same: Reverse the cuts! The state has enough revenue to fund state services and education at levels in the governor's budget.
Jan. 11 - In a job-killing move, majority Republicans at the 2011 Legislature voted in Appropriations subcommittees to chop some $500 million from Democratic Gov. Brian Schweitzer's proposals for the next two-year period. MEA-MFT testified against the cuts. (Read some of our testimonies here.)
The cuts happened way too quickly, without enough opportunity to hear from the people who will be affected by them. If the legislature is going to cut services, they need to do it in the light of day!
Over $30 million in health and human services, over $116 million in education funding – all gone with little public input, little consideration of lost federal funding, little consideration of the real human cost to Montana communities and families.
The cuts are completely unnecessary. The money is available in Schweitzer's budget to fund public schools and state services.
The cuts will wreck jobs. The move will kill hundreds of jobs across the state, from teachers to state employees to private businesses with state contracts. Cuts to Medicaid alone could affect almost 3,000 jobs across Montana – nurses, doctors, and other service providers.
Plus, the cuts will slice services for Montanans who need them -- including schools, foster care, various disability services, Meals on Wheels for seniors, funding for hospitals and doctors to serve the poor and mentally ill, and much more. These are the public services make Montana a good place to live and work.
By starting the budget discussions at an artificially low level, the Appropriations subcommittees made it more likely that essential state services will be cut or eliminated.
Instead of starting with the governor’s budget, which already contains cuts, or starting at the current level of funding, which is the traditional way to build the budget, the Appropriations subcommittees voted to cut an additional 5% out of the appropriation bill, known as House Bill 2. All the Republicans on the subcommittees voted for the motion.
Cutting the budget might make for a good sound bite -- but it's bad policy.
The cuts include over 200 separate cuts in state and education services.
- $51 million cut in k-12 school funding
- $32 million cut in university funding
To replace the cuts in state funding for education, Montanans should expect:
- Local property tax increases
- Student tuition increases in the double digits
Public Health & Human Services cuts:
- eliminating funding for Big Brothers and Sisters,
- moving 100 Montanans out of rest homes,
- eliminating Meals on Wheels funding,
- elimination of Big Sky Rx, the program that provides prescription drugs to low-income elderly Montanans, leaving 11,000 low-income seniors without prescription drug assistance,
- cutting many other important services for children, families, and seniors.
Opposing the cuts, Representative Tony Belcourt (D-Box Elder) said, “I came here for jobs, not to cut jobs.” He went on to say that the cuts in DPHHS would result in a loss of 40 state jobs. He pointed out that federal dollars would be lost as a result of the cuts.
Representative Mary Caferro (D-Helena) said, “My goal is to balance the budget while protecting the people of Montana.” She called the budget cuts “artificial solutions” and said, “I didn’t come here to rubber stamp a plan.”
Senator Trudi Schmidt (D-Great Falls) called the cuts “draconian” and asked why the cuts are necessary when Montana has a large amount of money (over $300 million) in the bank.
MEA-MFT is fighting these cuts. We are working with many other Montana organizations that advocate for education, seniors, people with disabilities, and others.
“It is important to keep the pressure on,” said MEA-MFT Public Policy Director Marco Ferro. “We want legislators to look citizens in the eyes when they tell them their schools and services are being cut. This isn’t a game—it is our economy and our future.”
We need your help! Please stay informed and involved by visiting our Legislative Action area often. Be ready to take action when asked.
Read news story: GOP majority takes first go at budget, cutting $300M from governor's proposal
Also read: Montana Republicans use majority to "hack" the budget
Visit our main Legislative Action page.