Guest Post: The Legislature Must Do Our Job and Fund Public Services

The Legislature Must Do Our Job and Fund Public Services
by Rep. Mary Ann Dunwell
My legislative email is blowing up with desperate messages from Montanans pleading for a special legislative session to save our essential public services. These are heartfelt, tearful cries for help from people with disabilities and mental illness, seniors, child care workers, parents, public school teachers, counselors, University professors, students, direct care workers, health care providers, public sector employees, friends and neighbors. Their voices come from every corner of our state and reflect the Montana we know and love – the Montana that truly cares about our neighbors. I call on my colleagues in the Republican majority to be that Montana now.

We Montanans always reach out to help communities that suffer losses from wildfires or other natural disasters. The state budget crisis with severe cuts is a human disaster that demands that same help and emergency response. The buck stops here. It’s the legislature’s responsibility to restore revenues so government can do its job of serving the public. Don’t put it on the Governor or state agency directors. Under the law, they have no choice but to cut if the legislature does nothing.

The public will be the biggest loser. Businesses won’t get permits and licenses, public health & safety will be threatened, people will lose care – some will lose their lives, and the people who care for them will lose their livelihoods. This is not just a Capital City crisis. Communities statewide will feel the pain.

So let’s get to work. Convene a special session to restore revenues through additional sources and tax policy tweaks. Tourists enjoy our marvelous Montana and they can help chip in for its well-being. Other course correctors include fund transfers and nudging down the state’s ending fund balance goal, while keeping a safety net of dollars.

Let’s be clear, these revenue losses, proposed further cuts, and the millions of dollars we already cut out of state public services are a direct result of years of policies that favored corporations and the superrich at the expense of Montana’s hard working families. Sure, the wildest wildfire year ever cost us something, but let’s look at the long game. Rewind to 2003 and Senate Bill 407, a so-called tax reform law purported to grow revenue and jobs, and draw business & industry to Montana. Turns out that SB 407 served up a decade of tax treats for the super wealthy. Economic reports now show this to be a failed policy for everyone but the big boys. It did not help the labor market or attract business to Montana. It did cost our state billions of dollars in lost revenue. Big oil, big corporations, big industry, big tobacco, big everything thrived. Montana’s hardworking families struggled. We need to reverse that failed policy.

So here we are facing devastating public service cuts. This, after the 2017 legislature already cut millions of dollars with House Bill 2 and the Senate Bill 261 trigger bill. Montana’s Constitution guarantees dignity and equality of opportunity. With the most extreme cuts yet to come, people will be denied that Constitutional guarantee.

I urge people to keep speaking out. Flood legislators’ phones and emails. Weigh in at This is not a Democrat or Republican problem, it’s a Montana crisis. Let’s come together and respond to this human disaster as the Montana we know and love.


*Mary Ann Dunwell is a Democrat and represents House District 84, Helena/East Helena in the Montana State Legislature. You can reach her at


11 Comments on "Guest Post: The Legislature Must Do Our Job and Fund Public Services"

  1. Thank you, Representative Dunwell. I appreciate that you went back and found a specific bill that cut funding under the hoax of “trickle down” economics. I would like to see that bill revoked, or reversed, by whatever process is available to the legislature. I’m sure that there are many more similar bills that should be deleted by the fastest means possible. We can no longer continue to cut essential services simply because of the short sighted tax cutting that benefits only a small percentage of Montanans, and leaves the burden on the real people of our state.

  2. The GOP is determined to bring the economic miracle of Kansas to MT.

  3. And they better do it without pay! Seems like every time they get together all they do is waste time on silly bills and entertaining themselves.

  4. Wake up Montana, our ALEC educated, AFP motivated, K Bros alliance vectored and funded GOP Legislators are winnng big time.

    Winning more power to dismantle our State Budget.
    While grossly neglecting well thought out proposals to increase MT Revenue.
    While assigning to a “kill committee” an eminently fair HB 330 to
    claw away some of the 2003 tax giveaway to the top 1%.

    Winning right here and now.
    Look around.
    Seen many current blog posts, LTE’s, Guest Columns communicating vital information about MT Revenue enhancers?
    Look around.

    Now we are looking at pound of flesh cuts.
    Now there’s realistic stress, and more coming our way.

    Maybe there’s a partial fix at a Special Session of our Legislature.

    For certain Legislators will be critiqued and criticized.

    But now people under pressure of harsh cuts, journalism, public comment, even common sense, may not be able to field assessments of forces manipulating some of our powerful State Legislators.

    But here’s more problem.

    Those forces are positioned to gain even more power in Helena in 2018.

    There’s been times in American History, when the action of Government was to protect the people from the rich and powerful.

    But here in Montana we are in another phase when the purpose of State Legistative Government is to protect the rich and powerful from we the people.

    Especially because a lot of us people also recognize that Montana suffers from a changed climate.

    That we do not want to make our climate even worse.

  5. This isn’t a Montana problem, it’s an American problem. Lewis Powell and his buddies drew up the plans for the Fascist Paradise Icognito we are living in in 1972 and Ronnie Reagan, a smarter movie star was elected in 1980 and it has been downhill all the way since then. Even the original author of Trickle Down now admits it was a Fairy Tale and didn’t work as they predicted. Reagan sashed Social Security benefits and yet got reelected-could Trump finish it off and get away with it? The way we have been voting I don’t doubt it. Unless and until we rise up en masse and overthrow the Republican Robber Barons and Repeal Reaganomics we are screwed. Actually we dilly-dallied so long the methane bomb is probably going to do us one way or another anyway. Like a bunch of frogs in a pan of water…

  6. “We need to reverse that failed policy.” That needs to be said over and over until the people of Montana realize Free-Market-Trickle-Down has never worked in the history of the world and current Conservative Republican economic policies (the Koch Agenda) are a race to the bottom for all but the filthy rich. Compare Kansas to Minnesota and you will see the difference between failed Conservative policies and how successful Progressive economic policies in fact are. The MTGOP has Brownbacked Montana and it needs to be reversed before it’s too late.

    • The Original Art Fenske | September 29, 2017 10:59 AM at 10:59 AM |

      Trickle down has never worked? Funny, I’ve never been hired to work for a poor person. I wonder who’s swinging a hammer in the Yellowstone Club today and who’s paying them? And who’s eating at Beerworks tonight and whose pockets does that money reach? I just saw a lawn maintenance crew drive by with 4 dudes in the truck– you figure they’re mowing poor people’s lawns for free? Why don’t you think before you barf on these pages? You don’t even understand that “trickle down” happens every single day, and that the phrase is more an idea rather than an economic principle. Old people– ish.

      • The original Art Fenske (yep there seem to be two of us posting here) | September 29, 2017 2:45 PM at 2:45 PM |

        Whatever you say Art. Please provide one example where cutting taxes on the wealthy has resulted in an increase in income for anyone except said rich people.

  7. The 2009 report on SB 407 issued by the Montana Budget and Policy Center stated:
    “Senate Bill 407 passed in 2003, lowered the top tax rate for the personal income tax… (and effectively lowered) the capital gains rate. … proponents argued that these changes would spur economic growth in Montana. However, there is no evidence that SB 407 created additional growth in Montana’s economy… (and) Using five measures of economic growth, SB 407 did not lead to improvements in 4 of the 5 measures as compared to surrounding states. (and) Using regression analysis, the implementation of SB 407 did not have a statistically significant impact on the growth of the Montana economy.”

    One comment here suggested that ‘trickle down’ happens every day. That’s an incorrect use of the phrase – as the term is used to describe what happens when the wealthy are the beneficiaries of tax relief. By the way, the money earned by wage earners and small businesses is theirs. Every wage earner is a small business – a wage earner’s money does not come to them from aristocratic benevolence. It’s more accurate to say the aristocrat is the beneficiary generosity and good will; and that becomes most obvious when we put the magnifying glass on the source of mega-wealth and family fortunes… who is doing most of the heavy lifting; while the machinery of government and the entire financial system is clearly subservient to the inclinations of the wealthy and powerful.

  8. Regarding the “Trickle down” economic theory, it was just that, a theory. The proof turned out to be the absolute opposite. The wealthiest beneficiaries of that failed theory did not create jobs, they simply took the extra money and put it into the Stock Market, where it benefits only themselves, and their broker. No trickle down, unless you count the broker’s extra Latte. I believe that the 70-90% taxes on the wealthiest people in our country, back in the 40’s & 50’s was offset by tax reductions given for CHARITABLE giving. The incentive to gain a break by charitable giving resulted in benefits for the neediest members of our society. Then in the 60’s & 70’s and onward, the tax breaks shifted away from charitable giving, to equipment and capital spending. Even my tiny business takes equipment depreciation tax breaks. I don’t get any break for my charitable giving, but I give anyway. The more money some people have, it seems the more they want, and the more they cling to every dollar. I’ve seen street people who get a few dollars to buy a meal, turn around and share it with another street person. Perhaps we should take a look at reinstating tax breaks for giving, instead of always taking.

  9. Im afraid of a special session. I have been through 3 of them and there was not a thing special about them everything was well planed ahead of time and some how there was something got turned around and there was a negitive effecton a program that wasn’t planed . if anyone can remember 6 years ago I warned about the oil boom would not last and the R’s said it would last 40 years.I didn.t vote for H.B, 2 because I thought it was inflated. I.m sorry that I was right.

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