Weekly Posting of the Conservative Cow Doctor


Now I understand, but will voters?

“Cut the black-baldy steer out of the fat pen. He is finished,” are perfectly clear instructions to anyone raised a farm or ranch kid; for city folk, not so much. Every profession, including politics, has its own peculiar lexicon. On April 15th, after four sessions in Montana’s legislature, I discovered the true definition of a phrase I had misunderstood since I plunged into public service in 2006. The words “getting the money out of politics” did not mean what I thought it did and I feel sheepish discovering I had been wrong for so long. The debate on SB175 and SB375 perfectly focused the phrase I have heard so often. Here is the story.

First some background. SB175 is the big education bill crafted by Senator Jones. As amended, it spends 50 million dollars, drawn mostly from oil and gas production taxes, and fully funds the dreaded national Common Core curriculum. Coupling SB175 with previous K-12 funding increases asks Montana taxpayers to cough up and additional $105 million over the biennium. Do the math; a family of four will be required to donate an additional $420 in taxes over two years from now through perpetuity, or until it is raised yet again. Government never shrinks. Most all Montana school boards and the education union screamed “it is for the children” and SB175 passed the House on a vote of 58 to 41. I voted with the minority.

The second bill’s similarity to the first is apparent only after closer scrutiny. SB375, euphemistically labeled the “dark money bill,” was spun as legislation to clean up political campaigns by increasing transparency and getting the money out of politics. It did neither. This bill was purposely crafted by liberal Republican senators and Montana’s governor to make conservative Republicans an endangered species. Had it passed, progressive Democrats would have controlled Treasure State politics for the next 50 years regardless which party was the majority. Exactly as is happening in Montana’s House during these closing weeks of this 63rd session, 39 Democrats are joined by 19 liberal Republicans to crush the efforts of the 41 conservatives. Government is growing at pathological rates.

SB375 squeezed out of the Senate by a parliamentary sleight of hand and was sent to the House Judiciary Committee for an objective assessment. After much amending and debate, we tabled it. By a twist of fate, SB175 was discussed on the House floor the same day two liberal Republicans attempted to blast SB375 from the Judiciary Committee. Interestingly, but not atypical, the motion to spend education money on SB175 was supported by nearly the same group voting to remove political dark money in SB375. Because a blast motion requires a 3/5ths super majority, SB375 remains tabled in committee. It wasn’t until 4:30 the following day while on my morning run, did I make the connection regarding the relationship between these two votes. My epiphanies are rare, but this one was a dandy. Getting “the money out of politics” has nothing to do with diminishing fund raising in campaigns; it refers to spending—the faster elected officials can spend tax money the less there is. Supporters of SB175 and SB375 spent 48 million dollars out of politics with a simple push of the green button.

So as we enter the final week of the 63rd session, 39 Democrats and 19 liberal Republicans have spent our budget into structural imbalance just like the big boys in Washington D.C. Bless their hearts. I wonder if the generation being saddled with this debt will blame politicians for overspending or blame school boards, superintendents, and education unions for throwing us under the bus if we did not get the money out of politics and into their general funds.

The above financial imbalance does not consider this session’s final Medicaid expansion bill, HB623, which is projected to cost Montana taxpayers $152 million per year by 2021. With another push of the green button, the Montana Hospital Association and the Chamber of Commerce are asking that same family of four drop an extra $608 into the tax collection kettle so it too can be spent out of politics. With Montana’s budget projected to spend more than 9 billion dollars over the next two years, perhaps getting the money out of politics is not such a good idea after all.

Home     |     Products     |     Services     | About Us     |     Contact Us Copyright (c) 2009 Krayton Kerns  All rights reserved.