Montana Democrats Give the Legislature a ‘D’ for Performance at Transmittal Deadline
Today, Feb. 28, Montana house and senate democrats issued a report card for the legislature. The report covers key issues for democrats including Medicaid expansion and education funding.
Representative Cliff Larsen of Missoula explains why the Legislature deserves to receive a 'D.' "We really started out this session in January with high hopes of focusing on jobs, effective government and quality education. I think that we're working hard at that, but republicans have been pretty stiffed necked about focusing more on trying to micromanage government and creating tax advantages for the wealthy and for corporations."
Larsen says his own party is partially to blame, "I'm grading us down too, all the democrats feel that we haven't been as successful as we might have been and that means figuring out how we can work better with the republican majority in both the house and the senate."
Larsen says that when the legislative session restarts Democrats will push for the bonding bill to build the Missoula college and for Medicaid expansion. Larsen characterizes both of these bills as “jobs bills”
Below is the full report card issued on Feb. 28:
Helena, MT — As members of the Montana House and Senate depart Helena for transmittal break, Democrats released a mid-session report card. The report gives the legislature a “D” for their work, with the note that, working together, these grades can be brought up during the final half of the legislative session. Democrats graded the legislature on the body’s work to create jobs, improve education, and create more effective government.
“The Republican leadership has got to focus,” said, Senate Democrat Leader Jon Sesso. “Whenever we talk to small businesses and community leaders back home, they remind us that our number one priority is jobs, and I hope that over the next 45 days, our counterparts need to join us in knuckling down and getting to work.”
PROGRESS ON JOBS: “Incomplete”
Democrats said some progress has been made on workforce training for veterans, but gave the legislature’s overall work on job growth an “Incomplete.” They encouraged the majority to work alongside them to provide the critical technological improvements that would bring our educational facilities into the 21st century by building world-class school facilities to train our world-class workers.
They also asked Republicans to join them in creating 14,000 jobs by increasing access to healthcare through Medicaid expansion. This initiative would not only create jobs, but improve our healthcare system, lower costs for everyone, and ensure quality care for patients.
Democrats also expressed disappointed the House majority killed the “Hire Montanans First” Act, an initiative which would make sure that projects paid for by Montana taxpayers hire Montana residents first.
“We have a job to do, so this is a checkpoint. I want to make sure that when we return, we stay focused on our priorities. Montanans deserve no less.” said House Democrat Leader Chuck Hunter.
PROGRESS ON EDUCATION: “C-”
Democrats gave a “C-” for the legislature’s work in support of quality education. They lauded the progress toward school funding and student achievement metrics. However, Democrats were disappointed several important initiatives, including early childhood development, universal college enrollment efforts, and veterans wraparound services at 2-year colleges and universities were cut from the budget.
“Education is vitally important to Montana’s economy and our small businesses,” said Hunter. “Let’s give our students the tools they’ll need to compete in a global economy.”
PROGRESS ON MORE EFFECTIVE GOVERNMENT: “D-”
When evaluating efforts to make government more effective, Democrats gave Republicans a “D-”, arguing the majority party had lost touch with the needs of Montana families.
“We know it’s our job to make tough decisions when it comes to balancing the budget, but the majority just doesn’t get that Montanans don’t’ want to give special breaks to wealthy individuals and special interests – all the while sticking the bill on hardworking Montana families ,” said Sesso, “The proposals advanced thus far will not result in effective, fair, and balanced government.”
Democrats were encouraged by the progress made on the budget, but questioned the Republicans’ legislative priorities after killing a measure to give $400 back to every homeowner, and eliminating the business equipment tax for 11,000 small businesses.
The report gives the legislature a “D” for their work, but the legislators say these grades can improve through a renewed commitment to working together when the legislators return next Monday for the final 45 days of the session.