Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Montana Senate leadership in action

Back in late March, Charles Johnson of the Billings Gazette told us to stay away from the Montana House because of what a toxic partisan place it had become. We were told that we should be thankful that "the good old reliable Montana Senate" would be there to clean things up in a nice friendly way.

Well, if this is the product of the good old reliable Montana Senate, then Montana Headlines is sorely disappointed.

Let's review: the executive branch requested a 23% increase in spending compared to the last biennium (which itself represented a substantial increase from the prior year.)

The Montana House counterproposed a 13% increase in spending, and a significant majority of Republicans would have given an even higher counterproposal had they received some Democratic support.

So, the reasonable Montana Senators worked in a bipartisan fashion to split the difference and came up with increases of about 20-21% or so, leaving some wiggle room to give up a magnanimous point or two in joint committee with the House. Right?

Wrong.

The bills hitting the Senate floor actually propose to spend more the executive branch requested -- giving a governor who had requested a 23% increase in spending the opportunity to give a solemn warning that the legislature shouldn't overspend.

Whether this is the product of Democratic Senate leadership, Republican Senate leadership, or the joint product of both, one wonders exactly what kind of fiscally moderate leadership this is supposed to represent. One wonders where exactly the compromises are -- even little ones.

Even if Republicans get some of the permanent property tax cuts they want, it would seem to be a hollow victory if they aren't able to put a noticeable brake on spending increases. The last thing that Montana Republican legislators should want to do is to mimic their national counterparts.

President Bush and the Republican Congress managed to get some much needed income tax cuts through -- even if they were smaller than needed. But they failed miserably at restraining growth in spending, and didn't even pretend to want to make real cuts in federal spending.

Their reward was the 2006 electoral bloodbath -- and as a result of that election, the tax cuts they did get are in serious jeopardy. Why anyone would want to imitate that strategy is beyond understanding. We do need property tax relief in Montana -- but we need restraint in the growth of state government just as much, if not more.

2 comments:

deepmoat said...

Is that what you get when you have so many legislators working for state government?

Montana Headlines said...

It's certainly what you get when one party's most important lobbying groups are the government agencies that it funds.