The Billings Outpost

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Ir-Responsible Republicans

The following Republicans voted with Democrats consistently this legislative session: Reps. Rob Cook of Conrad, Christy Clark of Choteau, Roy Hollandsworth of Brady, Frank Garner of Kalispell, Geraldine Custer of Forsyth, Tom Berry of Roundup, Tom Richmond of Billings, Steve Fitzpatrick of Great Falls, Ray Shaw of Sheridan, Jeff Welborn of Dillon and Dan Salomon of Ronan.

Montana Citizens voted for a Republican Majority in both the State House and State Senate.

The Montana Republican Party has a platform that was drafted and voted on by all 56 Republican County Central Committees.

These 11 Ir-Responsible Republicans ran as Republicans, lied to voters that they will vote for what is best but have continually voted with the Democrats.

These 11 Ir-Responsible Republicans have blown up our State House Chamber, turning their backs on their voters and the Republican Party plus have suspended all the RULES by voting with the Democrats – now Montana will get Obamacare, the tribes will control Montana water, and now Gov. Bullock will get everything he wanted – It is a sad day in the history of Montana – these 11 should be ashamed of themselves.

When our taxes rise once again to support their ridiculous votes, don’t say you weren’t warned.

Ken Matthiesen


Last Updated on Thursday, 30 April 2015 11:07

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Thanks from Eagle Mount

Eagle Mount Billings would like to thank the community for stepping up and supporting us through a difficult time. Billings should be proud as the sense of community was demonstrated by numerous businesses, individual Facebook posts and phone calls from community members asking what they could do to help.

Our largest fundraising event was only two days away when we discovered that someone had stolen almost $3,000 worth of items donated for our live and silent auction. We were able to thank many individuals and businesses already but wanted to recognize the last-minute calls to help, offers to donate and positive thoughts and prayers.

The Eagle Mount Billings family consists of people who participate in our programs as well as those who contribute to our organization. In the past couple of weeks we have reflected upon our growing family and all those who reached out to support us.

Amanda Boerboom


Last Updated on Thursday, 30 April 2015 11:06

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Oil industry gets free ride

The oil and gas industry is a boom and bust venture. Companies get in as quickly as possible, extract as much of the resource as possible, make millions of dollars, and then get out just as quickly, leaving behind a mess of abandoned wells, frack water storage areas, torn up farmland, depleted and unusable water, crumpled roads, and a local economy in tatters.

Unlike neighboring North Dakota, Montana gives oil and gas companies a holiday on paying taxes on the first 12 to 18 months of production from a new well, regardless of how high oil prices are and how profitable production is. Contrast this with North Dakota, where only when the price of oil falls below $52 a barrel, does it lower the production tax rate.

In North Dakota, oil companies pay their fair share, especially when wells are most profitable, and the state has ensured a revenue stream to deal with the ongoing infrastructure needs of impacted communities.

 Montana has lost out on hundreds of millions of dollars since 2008, according to the nonprofit Montana Budget and Policy Center. Montana must take advantage of this boom and bust cycle instead of waiting until the initial production of a well is used up scot-free.

Cindy Webber

Big Timber

Last Updated on Thursday, 30 April 2015 11:06

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Paper tiger lacks energy plan

Coal country politics made a dramatic showing in the Montana State Legislature last week with a bill that would heavily penalize an out-of-state owner of two Colstrip power generation units if the owner were to suddenly shut down the plants in the next decade.

The poison pill legislation, Senate Bill 402, would create an impact fee for Puget Sound Energy in the staggering amount of nearly $100 million from the date of plant shutdown. Bill authors Sen. Duane Ankeny, R-Colstrip, and Sen. Jim Keane, D-Butte, claim the multi-million price tag – unprecedented in Montana legislative history, if enacted – would help communities in Eastern Montana cope with the  economic fallout of a plant retirement.

But a November 2025 sunset clause in SB402 makes it highly unlikely that Puget Sound will ever pay a dime to Montana communities. Instead, the bill seems solely purposed to send a harsh message to legislators in Washington state, who recently introduced bills to shut down the Colstrip units due to the high price of Colstrip’s power compared to cleaner energy sources, and an apparent growing dislike of coal-generated power among Puget Sound utility customers.

SB402 is in fact a paper tiger, part of a ginned-up interstate spat on the future of coal energy production.While perhaps temporarily satisfying legislative vanities, the bill’s real impact is to send a chilling message to the business community that Montana lawmakers are willing to reach deep into the marketplace to bias and interfere with business decision-making – in this case, the difficult decision of when to retire aging power plants.

If one thing is certain, it is that our Colstrip plants will one day be decommissioned – as is now under way at the Corette plant in Billings. If we as a state want to protect jobs and community economics, the proper response is to begin now with a real plan to replace the Colstrip plants with new, clean power technology.

We need more leadership than SB402 provides when it comes to future energy policy for the Treasure State. If we play our cards right, Montana can lead the country as a net power producer by creating a business-friendly environment for new energy technology development.

Rep. Chris Pope


Last Updated on Thursday, 23 April 2015 15:21

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Medicaid plan helps state

Other states have found their initiatives to expand Medicaid similar to Montana’s SB 405, the Montana Health and Economic Livelihood Partnership (HELP) Act, have produced significant budget savings. Providing health insurance for low-income, working Montanans will result in state budget savings and economic growth.

Kentucky estimates their expanded Medicaid program will result in net state budget savings of $820 million from state fiscal year 2014 to state fiscal year 2021. And Arkansas estimates savings of $370 million during that time.

The savings Kentucky and Arkansas realized are available to all states. Providing health insurance coverage in SB 405 through private premiums and federal contributions will result in less need for state-funded mental and behavioral health programs. Other current specialized Medicaid programs would be to initiatives where the federal government is providing a greater contribution. Montana’s corrections program would achieve savings from released inmates receiving needed mental health and substance abuse treatment resulting in fewer re-offenders.

Research found that Connecticut, New Mexico and Washington also realized budget savings in the first year of expanded Medicaid programs. SB 405 is not a budget buster, and will result in economic growth to Montana.

Steph Larsen

Lyons, Neb.

Last Updated on Thursday, 02 April 2015 10:19

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SB 405 a bad idea

Over the past 65 days, there have been numerous proposals presented to the Legislature that can aptly be described as “take-it-or-leave-it.” But one proposal tops all others when it comes to the audacity of a “take-it-or-leave-it” offer—Senate Bill 405.

Just a few short weeks ago, a new concept for Medicaid expansion was brought before the Legislature that some claim is a “collaborative effort” exemplifying statesmanship. The bill, SB 405, has been lauded as a “compromise” that will benefit tens of thousands of Montanans if enacted.  But while policymakers get caught up in the emotional cloud that dominates the debate surrounding Medicaid expansion, it’s important to keep things in perspective—particularly the long-term sustainability of any plan that the Legislature chooses to adopt.

First, it’s important to recognize that SB 405 is not a compromise. When numerous amendments were offered to improve the proposal, the sponsor, after acknowledging that the amendments were good, asked the Senate to reject each and every one of them.  Does that sound like “compromise” to you? Does that sound like a “Montana Solution” to you?

Second, regardless of the proponents’ claim that SB 405 is a “Republican solution,” it is the implementation of Obamacare, plain and simple — something few Montanans are eager to support. SB 405 accepts hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funds offered through the Affordable Care Act to create a new entitlement program. And, in addition to spending hundreds of millions of dollars to expand entitlements, SB 405 also creates a massive new state bureaucracy that will cost the state millions of dollars every year. Simply put, SB 405 is uniquely this country’s most enhanced Medicaid expansion proposal yet. But, can we really rely on federal money to be there?

The federal funds that cover a portion of the costs of Medicaid expansion have proven to be laden with restrictions. We already know that these particular funds will be reduced after the first few years, and the program is expected to cost the state of Montana almost $40 million by the year 2020, with that number increasing exponentially every year.

 Even though many members of the Legislature will not vote for full expansion of Medicaid, it’s important to remember that real Republican alternatives are currently still in play in the last weeks of Montana’s 64th legislative session.

HB 455, introduced by Rep. Nancy Ballance, would cover nearly 10,000 low-income Montanans currently unable to receive coverage under Medicaid. That bill would expand coverage eligibility to the blind, disabled, young parents and veterans.  Unfortunately, those legislators rushing to get their hands on the federal dollars cannot see the benefit of a proposal that targets public resources to help the most vulnerable in our communities.

We must be cautious when formulating our public policies. Creating a massive program that throws money at the problem is not responsible policymaking, and will almost certainly put our state’s financial health in jeopardy. SB 405 is not an example of a Republican solution, and to claim otherwise is insulting.  It’s time that proponents of full Medicaid expansion drop their “take-it-or-leave-it” mentality and consider for the first time a true compromise — because that is the only way we can ensure protection of Montana’s most vulnerable without jeopardizing our state’s financial health.

Sen. Debby Barrett



Last Updated on Thursday, 02 April 2015 10:18

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