Republican legislators conspired to gin up a fake budget crisis to undercut jobs, public school classrooms, and seniors. A new analysis by Tax Analyst [pdf], out this week, spells out the whole debacle in detail. Here’s what went down.
Exactly one month before the 2010 election, the GOP legislature’s economic forecaster predicted a $400 million dollar budget deficit.
Even though Governor Schweitzer and his budget director explained why the prediction was inaccurate, the GOP refrain “$400 million dollar budget deficit” was parroted by the media. Recall that the Billings Gazette sent out a questionnaire to every candidate asking what cuts they will propose to the budget to make up for the supposed $400 dollar deficit?
Legislative fiscal analysts predict that by June 30, 2013, there will be a $366 million state budget deficit with no money in reserve. How specifically would you balance the budget? What specific government services are you prepared to cut, by millions of dollars if necessary, and which government services would you preserve?
Then, by repeatedly feeding the “we’re bankrupt” lie to the electorate, TEA Party republicans rode the wave of fear and paranoia into state legislative office, claiming they were needed to help combat the supposed budget crisis.
The Governor again called it a fantasy, but the fraud continued. The legislature claimed that the drastic cuts they made to those hardest hit by the recession (seniors, veterans, school children and the disabled) were made necessary by a $400 million dollar deficit that wasn’t real.
As soon as the legislative session was over, the legislative staff admitted that their numbers were (badly) off. They claimed to be “surprised” by how wrong they had been, the Tax Analyst analysis explains. State Senator Ron Erickson (D) gave a scathing response, saying he and other Dems weren’t surprised, as the Governor had been saying that the deficit prediction was wrong from the beginning.
Montana has $300-400 million dollars left in the bank that could have been used to create jobs, to help the needy and to make sure school kids have a bright future. Now, GOP gubernatorial candidates are trying to continue the deception to bring about their own elections. They, too, will claim a spending crisis and the need for immediate budget cuts. This time, however, the GOP’s record of deceiving the public for political gain will stand in their way.