The Billings Gazette publishes letters from readers in the Opinion section. Here are today's letters.
To submit a letter to the editor, go here.
Elect Mercer to Montana House
Fair-minded people who value truth, the rule of law, and the Constitution realize the Democratic Party was exposed during the Kavanaugh hearings.
Exposed as a group who care only for raw power, will destroy anyone to get it, and believe the public is ignorant and won’t recognize their antics. When you see emotional-accusation Trump “innocent until proven guilty,” you know this is not an America you want to live in.
That is the bottom line reason I have confidence in conservative Bill Mercer. If you think it’s different in Helena, you’re not paying attention. Consider this. Republican legislators describe how their Democratic colleagues receive a sheet from the governor’s office with talking points for the issues of the day.
Dr. Anne Giuliano paints herself as a moderate, but her key issues appear progressive in nature. Affordable healthcare (Obamacare), environmental protection (more climate change distortions), access to public lands (Democrat’s misrepresentations of Republican views) and equal pay for women. I wonder if she understands the complexity of that last issue? Female clerks at Walmart get paid equally to male colleagues in her medical field?
Mercer would bring a depth of knowledge and experience in public policy to the Legislature. As U.S. attorney for the state during the Bush administration, he received high marks — even from Democrats — for being fair-minded and working across the aisle.
And, he actually lives in HD46 and understands our common sense values.
Wealthy benefit richly from Montana GOP policies
We vote soon! For 26 years the Republicans have held majorities in Helena. What have they actually accomplished? First, pushed a Business Equipment Tax giveaway to large corporations which cut millions in state revenue. Then, passed an Oil Tax Holiday in 1999 to stimulate oil production because it was only 20 bucks. Oil went to $150 but that holiday stayed in effect and has cost us billions. In 2005, they cut income taxes over $100 million a year. Look at a state tax bracket. The 1,580 richest Montanan’s making over $500,000 a year get $48.8 million (almost half) and another $37 million goes to those making between $100,000 and $500,000. The person making $50,000 gets 14 bucks. Something had to give!
In the past 20 years, they cut higher-education funding in half, forcing a 300-percent increase in tuition and program cuts. They’ve slashed health and human services $50 million a year. K-12 school boards have had to sue the legislature three times since 2000 to get barely adequate funding.
Your local property taxes have increased dramatically to make up a portion of these shortfalls. Here are a just a few of the crazy bills they’ve tried, unsuccessfully, to pass: “Declare that global warming is good,” “withdraw America from the U.N.,” “eliminate incentives for developing wind power,” “create a panel to nullify federal laws,” “right to carry guns everywhere,” etc. Frankly folks, if you make less than $100,000 a year and vote Republican, you’re being foolish!
Say no to onerous burden on Montana voters
Legislative Referendum 129, would restrict who can collect voted absentee ballots and how those ballots must be turned in. The League of Women Voters has helped to protect the integrity of our nation's voting system for nearly 100 years. As presidents of the League of Women Voters of Montana and the League of Women Voters-Billings, we urge you to vote no on LR129.
LR-129 was introduced because of isolated complaints in 2016 about volunteers knocking on doors unsolicited, asking to deliver completed absentee ballots to the election office. Notably, there’s no evidence that any collected absentee ballots went missing. The legislation is unnecessary because we already have laws that protect ballots and protect voters from coercion.
LR-129 is harmful because it threatens a $500 fine per ballot for helping others return their ballots to election offices. And LR-129 mandates a process for delivering others’ ballots that is onerous to the point of discouraging voting. For example:
1. You and your spouse complete your absentee ballots just days before the election, too late to mail them. You drop both ballots into the ballot drop box outside the county elections office. But if LR-129 becomes law, unsupervised ballot drop boxes will disappear. You’ll need to enter the election offices and complete a registry for each ballot (other than your own) that you drop off.
2. You live in rural Montana, over an hour drive from the county elections office. A neighbor in your area collects completed absentee ballots and delivers them to the election office, saving others time, and the cost of stamps and transportation. Under LR-129, this community volunteer would only be allowed to deliver up to six ballots.
Please keep our concerns in mind and help defeat LR-129.
Rosendale misleads the public
Matt Rosendale has tried to mislead Montanans about who he is and his record on the issues important to us. He claims he’ll keep public lands in public hands, even though he himself admitted he had long been on the record trying to transfer federal public lands. He claimed he was a rancher — that is, until he was caught for never having owned any cattle.
But now, Rosendale crossed one line too many. He claimed that he would protect coverage for Montanans with pre-existing conditions. Barely three months later, Rosendale introduced health insurance plans through his office that can deny coverage for pre-existing conditions.
Montanans are going to be affected by Rosendale’s refusal to protect the 152,000 people in this state who rely on life-saving or critical health care. Rosendale is trying to take us back to a time where Montanans with pre-existing conditions had to go thousands of dollars into debt just to pay for the medical treatment they needed to stay alive.
Rosendale can’t continue to lie through his teeth about what policies he supports. He wants a full repeal of our health care law, which could include the part that says health insurance companies cannot discriminate against Americans with pre-existing conditions. And now Rosendale supported expanding these “junk” health care plans that can do exactly that.
Maybe if Rosendale isn’t willing to fight on behalf of the Montanans who are fighting for the health care they need to survive, then he doesn’t deserve to be our senator.
Tester fails to vote to ban abortion
I recently heard a political ad declaring that Sen. Jon Tester is defending Montanans. But not all Montanans are being defended by Tester, as his voting record on abortion tells us. In the United States, more than 900,000 babies are deliberately killed each year while still in the womb, using grotesque and inhumane methods of abortion. He supports this even though one of his past campaign slogan touts, “Abortion: Make it safe, legal and rare.” It is certainly not rare and many times, not safe. There are thousands of babies killed each year in Montana. That’s not a very good defense of our most vulnerable in our society: the unborn. We need to protect life, not destroy it.
Send Rosendale to U.S. Senate
Matt Rosendale believes in the same things as most Montanans: freedom, liberty and the personal responsibility needed to achieve the rewards of freedom and liberty. Rosendale believes that you can spend the money you earn more effectively for your family than the government. That is why he was in favor of the bill that lowered your federal taxes while Sen. Jon Tester voted against the tax cut bill.
Rosendale has received an “A” rating and endorsement from the NRA. Sen. Tester voted for Supreme Court justices that do not support the second amendment and he has a “D” rating from the NRA.
This year, Sen. Tester voted against the 20-week pain capable bill that would have stopped abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. The United States is one of seven nations, along with China and North Korea, that allows elective abortions after 20 weeks. How shameful. Rosendale supported this bill and has a strong pro-life position. A majority of Americans want abortion restriction.
Tester voted against Judge Brett Kavanaugh for his nomination to the Supreme Court with one of his major reasons being the issue of dark campaign money. This seems absurd since the senator is one of the top three recipients of lobbyists’ campaign contributions (for a portion of) this year.
Sen. Tester votes with the most liberal members of the Democratic Party on virtually every important bill. Montana needs Matt Rosendale in the U.S. Senate. Please vote for Rosendale.
McNally a responsible leader
It takes courage to do the right thing. It is not always easy to be honest and transparent about your positions, especially in our current political climate, as things may be taken out of context. For example, it is never easy to increase a tax, even when it is crucial for public safety.
I am supporting state Sen. Mary McNally in her re-election campaign. Unlike her opponent, she is open about her voting record. She discusses her record on her website and also answered the questions posed by the Billings Chamber of Commerce (which her opponent did not). In contrast to McNally’s transparency, her opponent’s voting record is not discussed on his website or in other public forums. (i.e.: voting to support school vouchers that drain funding from public schools, sponsoring bill HB621 to allow insurers to exclude pre-existing conditions, and opposed funding Children’s Health Insurance Plan (CHIP).
While McNally’s opponent has voted against Montanans, McNally has not been afraid to stand up for what is right; she voted for a GOP sponsored bill to raise the gas tax. This tax had not been increased in 25 years, and our infrastructure was in dire need of investment, especially considering Montana’s lack of an infrastructure bonding bill in the past four sessions. No one wants a tax increase, but we need our senators to do more than simply say no.
I appreciate McNally’s responsible leadership. I will be voting for her and hope you will too.
Restore Land Water Conservation Fund
On Sept. 30, 2018, Congress allowed the Land and Water Conservation Fund to expire.
For over 50 years the LWCF has been our nation’s primary tool for funding fish and wildlife habitat, recreation access, state and city parks, and numerous outdoor recreation opportunities. It’s something the vast majority of us can agree on.
In Montana alone it has funded over $579 million in outdoor recreation projects and opportunities. And it certainly benefits our $7.1 billion outdoor recreation economy.
Not only does our wildlife viewing business benefit from this funding, but also every aspect of our community life and economy.
The LWCF has historically had national bipartisan support. Sen. Steve Daines and Sen. Jon Tester as well as Rep. Greg Gianforte have expressed their mutual support for the LWCF. But it is possible that it may become yet another political football.
To his credit, Daines, as a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resource Committee, on Oct. 8 helped pass a bill (SB 569) out of that committee that would both permanently reauthorize and fully fund this valuable program. Now, as a member of the majority party it is critical that Daines follow through and garner support from his entire party to pass this bill on to the president’s desk.
I encourage everyone to contact our congressional representatives, but particularly Daines, to support full funding and permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund. This program is a “win” for all segments of our Montana community and economy.
Ken and Susi Sinay
Yellowstone Safari Company
PAC money fuels Barrasso's Wyoming campaign
Gary Trauner is running against John Barrasso for U.S. Senate. His campaign motto is “Country B4 Party.” He is running not for personal gain but because he feels our country is in real trouble and needs true patriots to step up and serve. He believes this is for all the people and not just the well-connected and rich few. He is taking no Political Action Committee money. John Barrasso’s campaign is 90 percent funded by out-of-state PACs, so naturally those are who he serves not the citizens of his own state.
Trauner stands for keeping lands in public hands. He clearly understands the importance of keeping these lands open for hunting and other recreation. Our congressional delegation has proposed the idea to sell these lands off.
Gary, like Gov. Mead, is an advocate for Medicaid expansion in Wyoming. Such expansion would result in coverage of an additional 20,000 Wyoming citizens and reduce the current financial strain on our local hospitals a lack of coverage causes. The bill advocated by John Barrasso would result in 24 million fewer citizens covered. These are the older and sicker members of our community who really need such care.
Finally, John Barrasso has not held one open town hall meeting since the 2016 election. He always sends his staff. Gary Trauner has made a pledge to hold regular open town hall meetings. He currently hosts an open to all Facebook meeting with anyone every Sunday night at 7 p.m.
Judge candidate Kuntz remains nonpartisan
At the candidate forum in Joliet this last Friday, there was a question about my supposed donations to multiple Montana state candidates, most of whom were in Helena. I was surprised: I have only made one donation in 2004 to a nonpartisan judicial candidate. Our local Boys and Girls Club is the focus of my charitable giving.
After checking into various follow-the-money websites, I have discovered that an understandable mistake has been made: There is a Ray Kuntz who has made all of those donations. He lives in Helena and is the head of Watkins-Shepherd Trucking Co. To their credit, the website publishing the donation records fixed the error by Monday morning. I want to assure voters throughout the 22nd Judicial district that I am not beholden to any party. If elected, I will be an independent and impartial judge.
New Medicaid saved Montanans' lives
Early voting has begun, and as Montanans prepare to cast ballots, I hope that you will join me and vote yes on I-185, the initiative raising tobacco taxes to prevent youth from beginning to smoke/vape, while funding important health programs like Medicaid expansion.
Nearly 100,000 Montanans, or one in 10 of us, now benefit from health care services that many of them could not afford prior to the 2015 Legislature expanding Medicaid. The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services recently posted a wealth of information about the impacts of Medicaid expansion. The Montana Medicaid report can be found at dphhs.mt.gov/helpplan/medicaidexpansiondashboard .
At the site, you’ll learn that approximately 6,500 women have received a breast cancer screening and nearly 90 of them were diagnosed with breast cancer. As someone who has battled breast cancer, I cannot sufficiently emphasize the importance of screening and early detection, and the life- and cost-saving benefits that go with it.
The dashboard is easy to navigate by the type of health screening and enrollment by month and by hovering over a county, you’ll learn how many people in that county are enrolled in Medicaid expansion in that county.
Medicaid expansion is important to all of us but especially for the 60 percent of those enrolled in expanded Medicaid who live outside of Montana’s seven most populous counties, in the state’s most rural communities.
For the health of our state, vote yes on Initiative 185.
Get dark money out of campaigns
Congressional candidate Kathleen Williams is to be commended for hosting the recent meeting at the Billings Public Library on the topic of campaign finance reform. Panelists Jordan Wood, Jim Gransberry and Gene Jarussi presented valuable information on the changes in campaign finance laws over the years, the increase in money and its influence in politics, and current efforts to help bring more transparency as far as who is behind many of these so-called nonprofit groups that are pouring large amounts of money into our elections. This along with what is presented in the documentary “Dark Money” reveals how the Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court and subsequent influx of enormous amounts of cash into our elections have morally bankrupted our political system.
While issues such as public lands, education, immigration, women’s rights, the Second Amendment, the economy, etc., certainly are important, we as citizens of this country need to make changes to our campaign finance laws more of a priority. We can start by challenging both our elected officials and candidates to explain their individual stances on campaign finance issues and encourage them to support legislation that provides more “donor” transparency as well as the ability for those of lesser means to run for political office. Certainly this is one issue the majority of Americans (70 percent) agree on. Money is having a major negative influence on our elections. Let’s work to bring dignity, ethics, and honesty into our political system!
Tester understands PILT, Rosendale doesn't
Montana counties have federal public lands that make up 10-70 percent of the total acres. In in many counties, the largest landholder is the federal government. Payment in Lieu of Taxes is the mechanism the federal government uses to pay its fair share — its property tax.
In the Primary Election run up, Matt Rosendale, candidate for U.S. Senate, was interviewed on North West Liberty News and stated PILT is “a welfare check.” Welfare? Really? He has been in Montana politics long enough that he should to have a basic understanding of how essential services are funded at the local level.
Property tax is what funds cops, pays for water, garbage, sewer, maintenance of roads and bridges, and other public safety services including ambulance, fire and search and rescue. Without PILT that burden lands solely on Montana landowners. Without PILT, the federal government and 300 million Americans get a free ride – use of federal lands on our landowners’ backs us.
Obviously all commerce impacts Main Street and supports our communities. But state income tax pays for state programs, local landowners pay for the infrastructure that supports that Main Street. No, PILT is not welfare. PILT is equitable payment for services.
I support hunters and loggers that use county roads to access public lands. I support agriculture grazing of public lands and their efforts to fight noxious weeds. I support finding lost hikers and hunters, wherever they come from, that need search and rescue services that save lives. I support mutual aid in fighting fire. I support PILT because those financial burdens should not be borne by Montana property owners alone.
Sen. Jon Tester and his staff understand how cities and counties work and more importantly how funding sources impact that infrastructure. I support Sen. Jon Tester.
Broadwater County Commissioner
Rosendale in tune with Montana
Being an independent voter, I find it impossible to vote for a Democrat. Ever since Trump was elected, the Democrats have made a mockery of our government.
Let’s start with the Mueller investigation. So far, they have found a few “crooks” and what every American knew, Russia did meddle in the election. But, isn’t that no different than what the liberal press does day after day, 365 days of the year? The liberal press is, by far, a lot worse than what the Russians have ever did.
Then, Sen. Tester and his anonymous sources on the Veterans Administration appointee.
It seems to me that every time the Democrats or the liberal press are caught in a lie, they never apologize. But then, I guess that’s their way.
Over the years, I’ve got to know Matt Rosendale. At first I was a little hesitant on helping him in his campaign. But as I got to know him, my views changed. I found his moral values were more in tune with Montana than Sen. Tester’s would ever be.
As for being “out of state,” well, I guess I am, too. My parents moved to Montana when I was 2 years old, and that was around 1952. Whenever a candidate starts, the “out of state” card, that turns me completely off to that candidate.
Outside of Wibaux, I do own some land. The land was never given to me or inherited — don’t own a brand, either.
Support Karjala in Billings HD48
Jessica Karjala has been our HD48 Representative for the past two sessions. She is hard working, intelligent and dedicated to the citizens of Billings and Montana. She supports public schools, public land access and hunting rights, infrastructure funding and small-business incentives. Karjala wants every Montanan to have access to health care, and to make sure insurance companies can’t discriminate based on preexisting conditions, as Republicans would like to do.
Her opponent, Denise Johnson, has no legislative experience. Her main issue seems to be to vilify Child Protective Services, to defund and even abolish it. She aligns herself with fringe elements who say CPS is kidnapping children and selling them. As a 16-year volunteer with a local nonprofit advocating for children in foster care, I have personal knowledge of the foster care crisis and how important CPS is. Despite under-funding and under-staffing, they remain dedicated to helping abused and neglected kids. The system is not perfect, but they are not villains.
Johnson recently mailed a glossy ad distorting the facts about Karjala’s campaign finance reporting. The truth is that Karjala completely supports campaign finance transparency and has accepted responsibility for her inadvertent reporting errors. All money was accounted for, all donors were acknowledged, and there was nothing nefarious about her reporting mistakes. Johnson’s attempt to distort and use them as campaign fodder just shows her own ignorance.
Karjala is a good representative, who listens to our concerns and represents us well. Let’s send her back to Helena for another term.