For communities and businesses to prosper, they must be safe. From the 911 call through to the arrest, conviction and incarceration of felony offenders, Montana citizens rely on state funded public safety and justice programs to support that goal. I’m dismayed to read about Rep. Greg Gianforte’s proposed tax cut on public safety of 30%. If Montanans see such cuts in the next biennium, there will be serious consequences to public safety across the state.
We can’t all afford to provide our own security and safety like those with Gianforte’s wealth. Taxes are the way individuals combine our resources to fund critical collective needs that we can’t provide ourselves such as education, public safety and a social safety net. Since Montana’s legislature must craft a balanced budget every two years, every dollar cut in taxes requires cuts in spending. State spending on public safety includes highway safety, criminal justice, the judicial system, corrections, mental health, addiction treatment and child/family services. These are critical to making Montana a safe place to live and raise our families.
These systems are at maximum capacity now and a 30% cut undoubtedly threatens public safety and will impact local tax coffers and local public safety services – police, fire, ambulance, jails and 911 centers. When you call 911 to report a violent crime or medical emergency and you’re told all units are busy, then what? Or your stalker can’t be jailed because the jail is full of state inmates awaiting prison? How about when your daughter’s rapist can’t be convicted because of backlogs of evidence in the crime lab?
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Montana voters must critically contemplate promises of tax cuts with a wary eye. A principled leader is concerned with keeping the public safe. Montana voters must elect leaders who will responsibly help this state improve public safety.
Editor's note: Mark Muir is an attorney who served as a law enforcement officer for 23 years and retired in 2013 as Missoula's police chief.