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Kearns and Sons

Report from Helena – Week 15

 

One week remaining, and several of the big bills still remain in flux. The big question (back when I was a young feller we used to say this is the $64 question) – can we maintain the desired ending fund balance (significant surplus) and still fund the remaining bills? Not everyone is likely to leave here happy because it doesn’t appear to me there is enough money remaining to satisfy all. For example, the GOP is the majority in both chambers and their top priority item coming into the session – especially with the revenue estimate showing over a $500 million surplus when we started – was that the taxpayers of this over taxed state would finally be able to actually realize a little tax break. Will there be funds available after these last few bills are haggled through? From my viewpoint, I’ll be surprised if there is.

I say that because when it comes to negotiating the spending amounts on the key bills the majority party is NOT the one setting the limits, or driving the bus. The majority that is guiding the biggest spending bills are the moderates. We may have gotten here by campaigning under the label of either a Democrat, or a Republican, however, as a legislative body this session is more than two party labels. I’m wondering if we are a reflection of the changes taking place in many other states also. We have become three. That’s right, we have become more of a philosophical attitude than a unified party label. We have become Liberals, Moderates, and Conservatives. This isn’t an organized movement by one party either, it’s both parties.

The effect of this is the outcome of bills like pensions, pay plan, additional education funding, buildings, Medicaid expansion. Some of these are already settled and the rest will be this week. Watch the voting in both chambers. It is not just the Senate that has a party split between conservatives and moderates, the House also. Out of 61 Republicans, we have 11 to 13 that consistently vote with the 39 Democrats, giving them a majority vote of 52 to 54 on the key spending bills. The majority party has gotten their way on many policy bills, however, not the appropriations bills.

Is this wrong? No, nor is it bad. it’s just the way it is. The bills are passing in a different way than we are accustomed to is all I’m saying. Think about this as you watch the final bills play out. You’ll see what I’m pointing out. The moderates are driving the bus, the liberals and conservatives are having their influences for sure. But, when we cross the finish line with an appropriations bill, it is the moderates that are collecting the blue ribbons.

Ed Greef

HD 90

edgreef@hotmail.com  

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