It is time to convene a special session of the Legislature, revisit the budget and raise additional revenue in order to avoid draconian funding cuts that will devastate the lives of many Montanans.
Some legislators are saying that Montana needs to tighten its belt and live within its means. That misses a critical issue — when the Legislature was making decisions about the budget earlier this year, they seriously miscalculated. Now, we are seeing the frightening impacts of overestimated revenue and grossly underestimated costs of fighting this year’s wildfires. Most legislators may have been well-intentioned when they estimated future revenue and costs, but now that the impacts on individual lives and our state as a whole are becoming clear, legislators must go back to Helena and correct the now obvious deficiencies in the budget.
The near-term harm of proposed budget cuts to children, people who are disabled, and the elderly is unconscionable. But the long-term impacts will be truly terrible. The services that will be cut have, over the years, helped many Montanans achieve normal lives so they can become productive citizens. Many programs actually save taxpayer money by avoiding costlier problems, and other programs are matched by federal funds — that Montana will lose — that leverage local taxpayer dollars. So the proposed cuts will most certainly bring with them more and costlier needs in our communities and state. This does not even include lost jobs by the people who provide these services, which will affect more families and further reduce state revenue.