Don Jones

Montana is broke


As Subcommittee Chairs of House Appropriations, we are the first stop for spending bills in the Montana Legislature. We are responsible for hearing testimony in our area of focus, then making decisions and moving bills to the full Appropriations Committee. In a low budget situation, like we are currently experiencing, we are responsible for making spending cuts and doing the difficult work of prioritizing needs in order to create a balanced budget.

We recognize that there is a need for us to do a better job of setting the stage for the people of Montana to explain how we got into a $300 million budget hole and what the Appropriations Subcommittees are doing to get our state back on sound fiscal ground.

From June through November 2016, the news in Montana coming from Governor Bullock’s campaign was that Montana was the epitome of financial health. He told the people that there was a $300 million ending fund balance, a #1 fiscal ranking from Forbes and a thriving economy. The truth is that the combination of needless spending, NO corrective actions, and a cyclical economic downturn in the state have wiped out a $300 million surplus.

What makes this more frustrating for many of us is that the Governor was aware of the pending revenue deficiencies over a year ago and could have taken corrective measures to address it. He is the ONLY person who could have acted to stop Montana from sliding into a deeper financial hole in the legislative interim.

The fact that we have no money in surplus may be a surprise to many of you who thought we were financially sound. We are disappointed that while the Governor was running a reelection campaign, you were not provided with an accurate picture of our finances.

Republican solutions to our financial difficulties will entail the following: 1) living within our financial means; 2) placing limits on what the Governor may spend; 3) prioritizing the services of state government and returning to fiscal restraint.

As citizens of Montana, we deserve an accurate portrayal of the condition of our finances. Armed with the truth, we can begin the difficult process of restoring the sound fiscal foundation we need to govern wisely and prudently.

Rep. Brad Tschida, R-Missoula; Rep. Don Jones, R-Billings; Rep. Randy Brodehl, R-Kalispell; and Rep. Carl Glimm, R-Kila.