Is cooperation dead? As Mike Dennison said on Saturday, “not the most flattering picture of their political skills or decorum.” Will the meltdown change the attitude of cooperation? My guess is, yes, it will on the Senate side, however I am optimistic that the House will continue along the path much as we have been since day one creating and passing with cooperation many good bills. Yes, the Democrats occasionally display their irritation at the frustration of being the minority party. They have worked very hard to get legislation passed in committee, which takes getting at least some votes from the majority side, and onto the House floor. These are bills they are very passionate about and when the vote goes along party lines and not in their favor, the emotions are felt by all in the chamber. The House has maintained a high level of decorum and respect throughout the session and I don’t expect that to change.
Think back to homework days and your biggest assignment. Mine just came last Thursday in the form of a 91-page bill. Ugh! SB 175, the long awaited education bill, will be heard next week in the House Education Committee, which I am on. I have already been to three different informational meetings so that I can try to build a foundation of understanding of the basic framework from which to add this bill onto. Our state’s education funding process has to be the most complicated mechanism in the entire world! It is complicated beyond belief. After complaining a little, I will admit that I am actually excited and looking forward to working on this bill. I do see that the funding has been reduced, while working its way through the Senate, from $170 million to just less than $100 million now. What I don’t see yet is what has been reduced or eliminated to accomplish that. There has been tremendous support for the bill and I hope we can end up with a final product that is not too carved up.
HB 14 was voted down late this week. This is known as the ‘bonding bill.’ But don’t panic when you see this in the news as it doesn’t mean the building projects were killed with this vote, because last week all the building projects were moved to HB 5 which is a cash bill. That means that at this point, instead of borrowing the money by bonding, the projects are all funded by cash. The game of priority for funding is still a moving target as the basic budget, HB 2, works its way through the final three weeks. If HB 5 loses ending fund cash, it is still possible to put some of the projects back into a bonding position, but we would much prefer not to borrow and will work hard to keep these as cash projects.
It looks like most of the legislators are more interested in finding the right made for Montana Medicaid reform solution rather than accepting the federal program. The carrot of the fed money is enticing on the one hand, but the reality of burdening our state with such a huge amount of increased spending into eternity is not very palatable. Higher taxes and debt do matter and we are working hard to find a better way. And I think we will. I’ve heard about two possibilities that are very close to being brought to the table.
Thank you for the many emails sharing your thoughts.
Ed Greef, HD 90