There’s an old adage, “What goes around, comes around.”
That old adage frequently manifests itself during any legislative session. And it has just done so again, in spades.
When our new governor announced at the end of December his modifications to the budget prepared by his predecessor, the majority party leadership roundly criticized the governor for proposing an increase of 13 percent in the state budget. As that majority party leadership criticized the governor for his spending increases, they promised to hold any increase to 2 percent or less. Then there was some public quibbling about the actual magnitude of any increase in state spending, just the kind of hairsplitting likely to make your eyes glaze over.
But now, the appropriations subcommittees have completed their review of agency and program budgets. In the process, they have made changes to the budget proposals put forward by the Bullock administration. Each of the appropriations subcommittees were clearly controlled in every case by members of the majority party who had promised to hold spending increases to 2 percent or less. The result of their work? The majority has, cumulatively, increased the governor’s budget by $67 million dollars. Yep. They’ve increased the Governor’s budget, the very budget they suggested was inflated in the first place. Talk about the “what” coming around again.
Ideally, the appropriations subcommittees should pare the budgets down as tight as possible, and then later, the legislature might judiciously put some money back into those budgets where that would be necessary. This session, that is reversed. Budgets that the subcommittees should have used a scalpel to shave down, will now require the full House Appropriations Committee to use a chain saw on. From that, I fear that good public policy may suffer.
As always, I’m interested in listening to your thoughts and ideas on the legislative process. Your input ensures that citizens continue to run our democracy. Please email me online at http://leg.mt.gov/message/, call me at 444-4800, or write me at “Montana State Senate – PO Box 200500 Helena, MT 59620”
Thanks for reading — until next time.
(State Sen. Greg Jergeson, D-Chinook, represents SD 17, which includes Hill and Blaine counties. During his 31 years of service as a state senator and public service commissioner, Jergeson has served north-central and north-eastern Montana, including Liberty, Hill, Choteau and Blaine counties. He’ll be sending a weekly “Hello from Helena” update to keep the Hi-Line informed.)