Monday, February 19, 2007

Democrats don't like drilling for it, but they do like spending the proceeds

The Sidney Herald drew our attention to a bill submitted by Ron Erickson, D-Missoula
to redistribute oil tax revenues in a way that would, not surprisingly, take those revenues and spend them on roads in the most populous counties in the state.

In a classic understatement, the Herald describes the bill as "what most eastern Montana residents hope isn't a sign of things to come..."

Richland County Commissioner Don Steppler describes it as a process whereby "the top 10 counties in the state will receive a huge windfall."

Erickson, a "retired University of Montana environmental studies professor," is presumably one of those Democrats who makes things as difficult as possible for oil development to take place -- but rather enjoys taking the proceeds and spending it in his own backyard. Doesn't really seem to fit in with the concept of environmentally responsible investing and other efforts not to touch tainted money, does it?

The counties that work to promote oil development and who bear the brunt of the impact -- labor shortages, rising cost of living, wear and tear on roads, temporarily decreased revenue from agricultural land taken out of production, and environmental impact -- should have a greatly disproportionate share in the revenue. It is hypocrisy of the highest degree to oppose oil development but covet the money, although we will be happy to revise our judgment if we learn that Erickson is actually a big friend of Montana's oil industry.

According to the Herald, Sen. Don Steinbeisser, R-Sidney (whose district has part of Richland County) said, "We have to kill this bill."

We're wondering why the Herald didn't contact the Senator who represents the other part of Richland County -- Sen. Sam Kitzenberg, D-Glasgow -- for his comments on this bill.

Presumably he will be putting his new influence in the state Democratic party to use in looking out for his constituents in Richland County, and the Herald should have given him the chance to have a little of the spotlight, too.

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