Legislators are gaining ground.... no, not on the tough bills, sometimes we’re good at kicking them down the trail for next week. What I’m happy to report is that this week we actually had 100 percent attendance!
We’re beating back the “Capitol Crud” effects and actually had a couple days this week with 100 Representatives in their seats!
Several of you from home, meaning the Bitterroot, from Sula to Lolo, have been here recently. Always makes me grin to see your faces, to receive your warm greetings, and especially to see you participating in the process, by advocating for public lands, for nurses, health care, education and many others.
You testified before some of the committees. This is how our ‘citizen legislature’ is designed. Decisions made by us the citizens. It’s a big effort for you to change your schedules, look out the window and say, “it’s still snowing (or again), but heck, it’s just another winter day, I’ll allow a little extra time, I need to be there for this.”
Some of you testified at the House Education Committee, as we heard bills on funding special education and for the “gifted and talented.” Room was full that day, and then just a few days later you were here again in front of House Local Government to advocate for the maintenance funding for the paved paths. Again a full room. I like your examples.... thank you.
This week the political news inside the domed building took a negative couple of turns led by the governor this time. Sometimes it’s those darn Republicans, or those darn senators... not this time. He surprised the entire legislative body, including his own party, with an insult to the House of Representatives over their budget proposal for funding this biennium, meaning staff and legislators, saying we didn’t cut enough, erroneously using last session’s figures, that he signed last time, as his basis.
This isn’t the first odd behavior move that has left us a bit puzzled.
Just two weeks ago, in his state of the state address, he touted the “strength of our economy,” saying our hard working citizens are doing well.
Reality is we are in the midst of declining revenues for the state, and the $300 million dollar ending fund balance, which is our “emergency fund, the rainy day fund,” .....a cushion that traditionally mostly carries over. Not this time. It’s gone.
It’s been difficult for the legislative branch to get all the data, but what they do know, we are now somewhere less than $40 million. So, reality is we have less money coming in these next two years, a budget that needs some increases, and a $300 million dollar cushion to replace.
There are some answers, and there is plenty of hope that both parties will continue together to make it happen. Tax increases... maybe some type of fuel tax. Infrastructure needs will be met... some bonding likely, I’m thinking.
The budget will likely get a lot of attention from the daily news the rest of the month as the appropriations committee begins to put it into place and out to the House floor by the end of the month. Meanwhile the policy bills are coming to the House floor at a faster rate each day. A highlight for me will be Wednesday when I present the sexual awareness for children bill to the House Education Committee.
Praying for less snow and warmer temperatures.