As the Legislature nears the end of our second week, I’m excited to report that our goal of “more work and less politics” is still making progress.
Our Speaker of the House, Mark Blasdel, began his term by saying he wanted to make the session more about work, and less about political games. In the first week, we heard addresses from Senator Max Baucus and Senator Jon Tester, and both of them echoed that call.
Senator Baucus also expressed support for building the Keystone XL Pipeline in Eastern Montana and North Dakota – a position that most Montana legislators of both parties enthusiastically shared.
Coming up soon, we have addresses from Congressman Steve Daines and Governor Steve Bullock. Daines should be particularly interesting, since this is the first time Montana has had a brand new member of the House of Representatives in a long time.
On the policy front, proposals to fix the state pension system are working their way through the process. As you may have read, the state government has been promising its employees a pension when they retire for many many years. Now, because of some poor performance from the stock markets and because of some questionable decisions made in the past, the account that pays those pensions is in financial trouble. We have to fix the problem going forward, so this never happens again. Whatever that solution, it must also honor the promises made in the past. We can’t go back on our word.
Toward that end Speaker Blasdel, along with Senate President Jeff Essmann, appointed a bipartisan committee from both houses of the legislature to come up with a plan we can pass before we adjourn. As he appointed his part of the committee, Speaker Blasdel said, “Addressing the shortfall in Montana’s pension fund is one of our biggest jobs this year. Working on the problem through a joint bipartisan subcommittee is a good way of making sure we’re focusing on work, not on politics.”
Next week, you should also see a major step forward in long-term tax reform. By then a bill should be ready that will help reduce our property taxes, which is something everyone should agree on. I hope to be able to bring you that news in my next report.
On the Education Committee, which I am a member, we will be getting more information on some new proposals to move more Natural Resource tax dollars to help fund education and provide property tax relieve to local taxpayers.
If you have any input about specific bills, please don’t hesitate to contact me by email at email@example.com or call or text me at 406-253-9505. You can also leave messages for individual legislators or committees by calling 406-444-4800. For more information on Montana’s 63rd legislative session, visit the Legislature’s website at www.leg.mt.gov