Greef oped

Sad news for the citizens of Ravalli county as the decision to close the Bitterroot Job Service office would seem to be based on reasons other than the Department of Labor’s data.

The data shows a office and county that are contributing substantial revenue to the state, then the Department of Labor makes the inaccurate claim that it will be more cost effective to send the workers of Ravalli County 50 miles to the Missoula office. The spin to the facts raises the question, is the decision doing what’s best for the citizens of Ravalli County or for the convenience of the department? Is this rural vs urban? Ravalli County unemployment rate in June was 4.2 percent, while Missoula’s is 3 percent. How does moving the office 50 miles cost effectively help these numbers?

Ravailli County pays nearly $31 million in income tax to the state, which is 43 percent more than any of the other offices being closed.

Ravalli County is the state’s seventh largest county, larger than Butte/Silver Bow, which is not losing its Job Service office. Ravalli County pays 11 percent more income tax to the state than Butte/Silver Bow.

Bitterroot Job Service provides services to 2,500 more businesses than any of the other job services being closed and services to 700 more businesses than Butte, which is not being closed.

Bitterroot Job Service provides services to a work force of 19,358, which is 43 percent more workers being served than the next largest closed office. They provide service to 2,043 more workers than Butte.

Ravailli County collects nearly $40 million in property taxes. Without the community benefit of the Job Service office, how many jobs will be lost? Ravalli county unemployment rate is higher than Missoula county; wouldn’t the most cost-effective effort be to increase the employment in Ravalli County?

The communications director for the Department of Labor, Mr. Jake Troyer, in recent newspaper articles noted that closing the four offices will save $700,000. If the state loses 1 percent of tax revenue locally due to the decision to stop serving those that pay the revenue, the state will have saved nothing. Mr Troyer had this to say to Ravalli County’s 3,700 businesses: “Ravalli County people needing the service can go to the Missoula office for help.”

Mr. Troyer, how often do you drive 50 miles and call it cost effective and convenient?

The agency recently did a review of its service centers around the state, examining their infrastructure, the amount of program use and the number of people employed. According to Mr. Troyer, the Bitterroot Job Service ranked seventh out of 20 in customer use, ninth out of 20 in both jobs posted and in enrollments. These numbers are rock solid. This is NOT a weak link in the chain. These figures are well above other locations that are staying open.

I’m asking the department to make its decision fairly and honestly, based on fact and data, not for their own convenience. As the data shows, this decision loses dollars hoping to save dimes. The state spends a lot of money on economic development, marketing and planning to support business. That money is the citizens of this state's money.

The citizens invest in economic development when we pay our taxes. You are spending that on our behalf and now you’re telling some that the state no longer wants to invest in their community, and that now 10,066 businesses will no longer be served locally.

The data doesn’t justify the decision. If this were a court case we would say, “The evidence demands a correct verdict.” The present decision is wrong for the state as there are no cost savings. It is wrong for the communities, for the taxpayers, and for the businesses trying to be successful. Employment pays the taxes; you appear to be shooting yourselves in the foot with the Ravalli County decision.

- Rep Ed Greef, HD-88, Florence