Last night, around 9pm, both the House and Senate of the 62nd Montana Legislature adjourned for the final time. After 88 days of unconstitutional, irresponsible, job-killing bills, it is finally over.
Both the Senate and House were able to pass the compromise budget that the Governor and legislative leaders agreed to last week. This proposal reinstates nearly all of the federal money that Republicans sought to reject and send to other states. In addition, it undid many of the irresponsible cuts Republicans made to many of the state’s vital services. Unfortunately, it still drastically cut from the Governor’s proposed budget, which already reduced state spending.
In addition, Republicans stuck to their guns and killed the best jobs bill of the session, the “bonding bill.” This bill is the only bill that is guaranteed to create jobs in the state. Republicans favored proposals that will give huge tax cuts to large out-of-state corporations, with the hope that they create jobs with the money, instead of pocketing it.
At a press conference today, Democrats expressed their disappointment with the way the legislature was run and the results of the Republicans’ partisan agenda. However, Democrats also stated that they were proud of the things they stood for–creating jobs, improving our education system and making sure we continue to have a beautiful state–and the values they fought for.
In addition, Senate Democratic Leader Carol Williams told stories of Republicans coming to her to express their dismay with the Republican actions in the legislature. Sen. Williams assured those in attendance that in 2013 Democrats would come back with larger numbers to fix the damage Republicans had done in 2011.
It appears that national laughingstock known as the 62nd Montana Legislative Session will likely end tomorrow, as today, the House gave final approval to the budget bill and the Senate gave initial approval of the bill.
Normally, we would be happy to see this session end, so Republicans have no further opportunity to make decisions that will harm Montana for years to come. However, the Republicans appear poised to leave town without finishing their job.
The budget has seven vital companion bills that lay out funding for aspects of the budget. The most notable of these bills is the school funding bill. However, these seven bills have not passed the legislature and been sent to the Governor. Without these bills, crucial portions of the state budget could be left in limbo or drastically underfunded. If this happens, the state could easily be left vulnerable to lawsuits for violating our state constitution by not adequately funding our public school system.
Tomorrow will likely be a fairly volatile day as Republicans seek to cram through their policies long before they are ready or have had a full and fair debate on their merits.
Republicans proved once again that they are only interested in talking about jobs and not at all concerned with actually bringing new jobs to the state. They voted today to kill the the most important jobs bill of the session, the so called “bonding bill.”
This bill would have allowed communities to access money to invest in crucial projects in every corner of the state. These projects include upgrades to the University of Montana College of Technology, the MSU-Northern Auto Tech Center, MSU-Billings Science and Technology Building, as well as projects in Helena, Butte, Bozeman and Great Falls.
The bill would have had an immediate job creating impact, which is why contractors and businesses from throughout the state supported the measure. It would have also made Montana a more competitive state for bringing new businesses to the state in the future, because of the better educated workforce and educational infrastructure.
Yesterday, during debate on the bill, legislators from both parties rose to talk about the importance of making this investment in our infrastructure, and explained that Montana was uniquely position to make this investment that would make the state an economic leader for decades to come.
Unfortunately, 13 Republicans chose to play politics with the future of Montana and switched their votes between the initial House approval of the bill and today’s failure of the bill. These Republicans are:
- Bill Beck
- Mike Cuffe
- Ron Ehli
- Kelly Flynn
- Alan Hale
- Bill Harris
- Gordon Hendrick
- Pat Ingraham
- Doug Kary
- Tom McGillvray
- Mike Milburn
- Wayne Stahl
- Ted Washburn
The House has 24 hours to reconsider their actions, however the likelihood of this happening is slim, so this bill is likely dead.
UPDATE: Late today, Democrats were able to force the House to reconsider their actions on the Bonding Bill. The Bill will be up on third reading again tomorrow.
A lot has happened during the second Republican Spring Break and the first day back in the legislative session. So, with only 4 possible days left, let’s do a quick recap of what has happened and where we might go from here.
On Friday night, Gov. Brian Schweitzer and Rep. Milburn and Sen. Peterson announced they had reached a budget agreement. This agreement reinstated $100 million in federal funds the Republicans had rejected. However, it still slightly underfunded several other important programs, including the K-12 public education system.
Upon returning today, Democrats and the Governor made it clear that they were willing to support the reduced budget, along with the state employee pay plan (which gives the first small pay increase to state employees in nearly 4 years), as well as the “bonding bill,” which invests in our education infrastructure, creates jobs now and helps our long-term economic security.
Today, in the House a bipartisan majority endorsed the bonding bill, however in order to pass third reading, they must gain a 2/3rds majority, which they did not receive today. In addition, the Republican majority killed the state employee pay plan. Finally today, Republicans pushed through the budget deal.
From here, the bonding bill and budget must receive a final approval from the House and in addition, the Senate must sign off on the budget deal.
The last four days of the session are sure to be interesting as legislators scramble to get their work done.
After just three days back in Helena, Republicans in the legislature are apparently ready for another spring break vacation. Today, they voted to take another taxpayer funded break–this time for five days.
This spring break vacation comes in the middle of budget negotiations with the Governor and with only 5 days left in the legislative session.
What makes this spring break vacation particularly egregious is the fact that they haven’t presented the Governor with a complete budget to review and make a decision on. They have only presented him with the main budget bill, but have not sent him the necessary companion bills for the budget. The most notable bill they haven’t sent to the Governor yet is the school funding bill.
Their failure to send a school funding bill to the Governor before skipping town not only leaves the Governor without a finished budget, it also leaves public schools in limbo. As these school attempt to plan for the upcoming year, they are forced to do so without knowing what their budget is for the upcoming school year.
The Governor has until Saturday to decide what to do with the incomplete budget that he currently has in his possession. The Governor has been tight-lipped about his plans for the budget, however all signs indicate that he is not pleased with the bill Republicans have presented to him.