Joint Letter Urges Action on Government Spending Transparency

Left/Right Groups Ask Leaders to Act

 

BOZEMAN (04.10.09) Forward Montana in Missoula and the Montana Policy Institute in Bozeman are asking the Governor and lawmakers to bring more openness to governmental expenditures.

The letter states that, while the groups disagree on many other issues, they believe in a strong and informed electorate and share a strong belief that taxpayers should be able to easily access clear and concise information on how their tax dollars are being spent.

Encl: Joint Letter Attached

The Montana Policy is an independent nonpartisan policy research center based in Bozeman. It provides analysis and information to encourage individual freedom, personal responsibility, and free markets in Montana.

 

For Information Contact: Carl Graham at 406-600-1139

 

Montana Policy Institute

67 W Kagy Blvd, Ste. B

Bozeman, MT 59715

406-219-0508

info@montanapolicy.org

www.montanapolicy.org

 

 

MPI is a Montana tax exempt corporation operated exclusively for the public benefit. No substantial part of the activities of the Institute are used for the carrying on of propaganda or otherwise attempting to influence legislation, promote any political campaign, or on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate for public office

 

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Montanans Eager to Track State Spending

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

For Information Contact: Carl Graham at 406-600-1139

 

Statewide Poll Reveals Desire for Transparency

Bozeman, MT – 4/06/09 – In a poll released today, over 93% of Montanans said that it is important for state and local governments to supply spending information that is fully transparent and easily accessible to taxpayers. In addition, over 65% said they would use a searchable web site containing detailed government revenue and spending information if it was free and easily available on the internet.

The poll, conducted by the Montana Policy Institute in Bozeman – a nonpartisan policy research center, sought to gauge public attitudes towards current state and local government transparency, and to determine how much Montanans know about current open records laws. It found broad support for detailed and easily accessible information surrounding the individual recipients and amounts of state expenditures. Over 95% would like easy access to contract information, 67% would like state employee compensation information to be easily available, and 81% believed that all state spending information should be easily available and accessible to taxpayers.

In contrast to the high numbers of Montanans who would like more data, only 16% of those polled indicated they had ever tried to obtain detailed state revenue or spending information, and of those barely a third (37%) were satisfied with the speed and ease with which their request was handled. “These results clearly fly in the face of the recent Governor’s Office testimony (opposing SB 241, the Taxpayer Right to Know Act) that the current system of showing up at a state office or mailing a request is good enough.” according to Carl Graham, president of MPI. “People want to know where their tax dollars go, and they want finding out to be as easy as getting their own banking information or finding an old high school friend.”

The poll’s results seemingly go beyond assumptions about public attitudes behind several measures currently working their way through the state legislature that would provide more detailed and easily accessible information about state revenues and spending, including federal stimulus dollars. These measures, if approved, would provide easier access to program level revenues and expenditures, but would not satisfy the apparent desire of many Montanans for more detailed information about specific recipients and amounts. SB 241 and HB 645, the Montana Reinvestment Act, both direct the state to make some information available to the public, but, according to Graham, “While these are both steps in the right direction, what the public really hungers for is the ability to track exactly whose wallet their dollars end up in and why. They want to know that their trust is not being violated as all this money is doled out. And they want to see the information before it’s too late to act on it.”

The poll was conducted the week of March 30th, 2009 and contacted 10,000 Montana households. It has a margin of error of +/- 3%.

 

The Montana Policy is an independent nonpartisan policy research center based in Bozeman. It provides analysis and information to encourage individual freedom, personal responsiblity, and free markets in Montana.

Montana Policy Institute

67 W Kagy Blvd, Ste. B

Bozeman, MT 59715

406-219-0508

info@montanapolicy.org

www.montanapolicy.org

 

MPI is a Montana tax exempt corporation operated exclusively for the public benefit. No substantial part of the activities of the Institute are used for the carrying on of propaganda or otherwise attempting to influence legislation, promote any political campaign, or on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate for public office

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Western Climate Initiative Cap-and-Trade

Economic research institute finds deficiencies in WCI’s analysis of impacts from recommendations.

 

Bozeman, Mont.—Specific proposals that several Western states would implement to comply with a proposed cap-and-trade carbon emissions control pact would destroy jobs and erode income, according to a report co-released by an economics institute.

In a thorough review of the claims made by the Western Climate Initiative, the Beacon Hill Institute at Suffolk University identified several flaws made by the seven state consortium, calling into question so-called cost savings ranging between $11.4 billion and $23.5 billion. These flaws render WCI’s projections useless in determining the WCI’s cost to state economies.

The authors of the report write, “Using the Western Climate Initiative’s own projections of increases in fuel costs, BHI finds that the policies will decrease employment, investment, personal income and disposable income. While WCI claims the ‘design is also intended to mitigate economic impacts, including impacts on consumers, income, and employment,’ they fail to quantify the impacts.”

Seven states are full participants in WCI: Arizona, California, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, and Washington. Beacon Hill Institute found that WCI’s policy recommendations “would have substantial negative effects” on the economies of its member states. Under a scenario in which 100 percent of greenhouse gas emission permits would be auctioned off to emitters in a cap-and-trade scheme, BHI determined that the seven states:

* Would lose from 103,931 to 251,674 private sector jobs, while the permit revenue would allow the states to hire 57,269 to 142,241 state employees;

* Would put investment by firms at serious risk by slowing investment in the region by $548 million to $1,448 million;

* Would diminish total personal income, which would fall by $6.35 billion to $18.31 billion per year;

The proposals’ negative economic effects stem from the price and tax increases the states would impose on the energy and transportation sectors. Because a cap on carbon emissions is effectively a tax on energy production that is passed to industry, businesses and consumers, the effect is likely to drive commerce and jobs to other states or countries.

“The cap-and-trade program would increase input costs for producers located within WCI states, placing them at a competitive disadvantage to those outside the areas,” BHI noted. “The pressure would be especially acute for producers that utilize large amounts of energy in the production process, such as manufacturers.”

Beacon Hill found that none of the seven WCI states would escape economic harm should cap-and-trade be imposed. Montana could lose as many as 2,869 jobs and $689 million in personal income by the year 2020.

“This report shines the light on yet another example of political advocacy masquerading as scientific analysis,” said Carl Graham, president of the Montana Policy Institute. “Montanans deserve an honest look at the true long term costs and benefits of climate change measures before special interest groups and their politicians make decisions that will cost us our jobs, empty our pocketbooks, and dictate how we live our lives.”

 

The complete study is available at www.montanapolicy.org.

 

The Montana Policy Institute is a nonprofit, nonpartisan policy research center based in Bozeman. To find out more visit us on the web at www.montanapolicy.org.

 

Fiscal Accountability Press Release

Press Release

Lawmakers Asked to Target Stimulus Spending

With Montana on tap to receive around $600 million in federal stimulus dollars, a nonprofit Bozeman policy watchdog is asking lawmakers to pledge that one-time federal stimulus dollars will only be used on one-time spending projects.

“The danger,” according to Montana Policy Institute (MPI) president Carl Graham “is that these one-time stimulus dollars will come into the state budget and be used to create spending requirements that won’t end when the initial federal money has dried up.” He cited several potential examples, including hiring new full time employees, creating new subsidy or entitlement programs, or even permanent tax relief – something the fiscally conservative organization would normally applaud. If any of these things happen, according to Graham, future lawmakers will be put in a position of either having to raise taxes to support the new spending or making painful cuts to people and programs; something that MPI says is an unfair burden for current legislators to place on future generations.

MPI mailed the pledge, which can be found at www.montanapolicy.org, to lawmakers on February 10th. It notes that if this one-time money is spent wisely on one-time projects within the state it has the potential to address serious maintenance and infrastructure backlogs while injecting jobs and money into our economy. However, according to a letter accompanying the pledge, if the one-time dollars are spent in ways that create ongoing programs and obligations or in ways that don’t create jobs or increase productivity, it will just create hard decisions down the road without helping Montanans who are truly in need today. “That’s not fair to our citizens, to our children, or to our future lawmakers.” according to Graham.

MPI hopes to gain broad bipartisan support for the pledge and will publish results in early March.

 

 

The Montana Policy Institute is a nonprofit, nonpartisan policy research center based in Bozeman. To find out more visit us on the web at www.montanapolicy.org.

 

Bozeman Nonprofit Announces School Financial Transparency Web Site

Press Release

Today the Montana Policy Institute unveiled a comprehensive web site containing school financial data from across the state. The site, www.schoolsopenmt.org, provides historical revenue and spending information for every school district in the state, and allows Montanans to compare district revenue, spending, staffing, performance, and other measures across any five districts and with state averages.

The site’s goal, according to MPI president Carl Graham, is to provide citizens, opinion leaders, and lawmakers with a user friendly and comprehensive source of information on school revenues and spending from around the state. The site contains easy to use search tools and graphics that translate raw data from official but difficult to navigate sources into usable and understandable information. “The goal isn’t to pass judgment or change any minds” according to Graham. “We want to raise the level of debate about school spending by providing taxpayers with as much information as possible. Once they see the data they can decide for themselves what the numbers for their district mean.”

The site guides users through historical revenue and spending levels across a variety of categories, including salaries, administrative costs, and more. They can also compare revenues and spending categories along with achievement scores across five school districts of their choice along with state averages. All of the data was gleaned from official state sources over a six month period by scouring government web sites. But not all of MPI’s collection efforts were successful.

“We also wanted detailed district level spending so that we could see more than just how much was spent and actually provide taxpayers with a view of what their dollars were spent on” said Graham. Unfortunately, nearly 45% of all districts did not respond to MPI’s data requests. Another 45% or more responded that MPI could copy the documents in district offices or pay to have them copied and mailed – a challenging task with over 400 state school districts but within their rights under current law. And of the remaining districts fewer than 10% provided any usable data at all. The results of these requests are also at www.schoolsopenmt.org so that people can see how – or if – their district responded to data requests.

 

MPI Report Challenges MCCAP Methodology and Conclusions

Press Release

Report challenges economics of Montana Climate Change Action Plan (MCCAP)

Bozeman, MT. January 26th, 2009: The Montana Policy Institute, a nonpartisan policy research organization based in Bozeman, has released a study by the Beacon Hill Institute challenging the economic assumptions and methodology employed by Montana’s Climate Change Advisory Group’s Montana Climate Change Action Plan (MCCAP). The study does not address the science of climate change or attempt to assign motives to the Advisory Group’s recommendations. It simply examines the economics of the MCCAP plan and the methodology employed to assess the plan’s costs and benefits.

The study concludes that:

• MCCAP costs and benefits are not quantified in a way that allows them to be compared. Estimated costs to reduce greenhouse gases of between $93 million to $691 million are set against metric tons of greenhouse gases reduced, without any attempt to weigh the benefits of reducing those gases against the costs of reducing them. The result is an apples to oranges comparison that assumes any decrease in greenhouse gases – however small – is worth any cost to Montana’s citizens – however large;

• When estimating economic impacts, costs are sometimes misinterpreted as benefits;

• Cost estimates leave out important factors, including program expenses, alternative scenarios, demand-based consumer responses, and other factors, resulting in unrealistically low best-case figures.

These shortcomings disqualify the MCCAP as a scientifically sound basis for public policy. The Montana Policy Institute believes that a comprehensive cost/benefit analysis using realistic assumptions and sound economic principles should be conducted before Montana policymakers decide to create new mandates, new bureaucracies, and new open-ended spending commitments. The stakes are too high on both sides of the climate change issue to accept anything less than a full and honest debate.

 

The complete study can be found at: www.montanapolicy.org.

The Montana Policy Institute is a nonpartisan, tax exempt policy research organization based in Bozeman. Our mission is to equip Montana citizens and decision makers to better evaluate state public policy options from the perspective of individual freedom, individual responsibility, and free markets.

 

Legislators’ Forum to Discuss Transparency and Accountability

Press Release

The Montana Policy Institute, partnering with the CATO Institute, Americans for Tax Reform, the Center for Fiscal Accountability, the American Legislative Exchange Council, and the Property & Environment Research Center, will host a Legislator’s Government Accountability Forum at the Red Lion Colonial Inn, Helena, 8:30-4:30 on Tuesday, November 11th.

The Forum will provide a hands-on workshop of programs and expert panels on government transparency, fiscal discipline, and property and environmental rights and responsibilities. In addition, Grover Norquist, President of Americans for Tax Reform, will provide the keynote lunch address.

All morning presentations and the lunch program are open to the public (and media). Policy experts will discuss budget and tax proposals that stress fiscal discipline and accountability; success stories in government transparency measures from other states; and property rights issues for maintaining Montana’s clean and healthful environment.

Afternoon events are closed-door sessions for state legislators and legislative staff. Hand’s-on panels will present nuts and bolts tools and resources to assist our lawmakers in crafting proposals that ensure our government remains transparent and accountable to taxpayers. These will include real world examples from other states’ actions that have resulted in concrete benefits to their citizens. Some of these include: Objectives-based budgeting models, tax reform measures, and government transparency web sites.

These “Google for government” web sites have allowed citizens in other states to track their tax dollars from the time they are collected to when they’re spent using key word searches and other user-friendly tools. Today’s technology allows this level of access to the peoples’ data, if only governments have the will to make it available. The Forum will provide concrete examples of just how easy and inexpensive it is.

Registration starts at 7:30 a.m. and events begin at 8:30. Registration is $25, and includes the morning presentations, lunch, and a keynote address by Grover Norquist. Register online at www.montanapolicy.org.

 

The Montana Policy Institute is dedicated to providing Montana leaders and citizens the information and resources they need to advocate for policies that are based on a respect for individual freedom, an expectation of individual responsibility, and a belief that government intervention should be the avenue of last rather than first resort. For more information visit us on the web at www.montanapolicy.org.

 

Montana Policy Institute Website Seeks Tips on Government Waste

October 3, 2008

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

Bozeman, Montana–Citizens can now report government waste, fraud, and abuse at the new Montana Policy Institute website, www.montanapolicy.org.

The Montana Policy Institute, based in Bozeman, is a member-based 501c(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to making state and local governments more accountable to the people they serve.

All citizen tips will be researched by the MPI staff, which now includes an investigative journalist.

In addition to tracking government waste, fraud, and abuse, MPI is also advocating policies to promote the liberty, prosperity, and quality of life for all Montanans by increasing government transparency and accountability. These policies would result in significant tax and spending reform, as well as provide Montanans with the ability to see where their tax dollars go and what’s being done by their government in their name.

MPI’s tax reform proposals would stop the systematic ratcheting up of spending and the growing role of government spending in the state’s economy by placing reasonable limits on spending growth. It would also build reserves during strong economic times and draw on those reserves when the economy slows and revenues decline. Excess revenues would then be returned to taxpayers in the form of rebates or permanent tax relief. Studies show that Montanans would have had over $3 billion dollars returned to them over the past 15 years under a system like the one MPI is proposing.

MPI’s Montana Transparency Project would have the state place all state and local spending on a fully searchable, downloadable, web-enabled database. Citizens and legislators could see exactly where budgeted money is spent for every department, every county, locality and school board. Government entities could easily justify funding requests based on their open, transparent, and demonstrated budgetary requirements. Contractors could see who won bids and why. Citizens could see where their hard earned tax dollars end up.

And MPI’s Objectives Based Budgeting proposals would provide a means for legislators to objectively measure Agency and Department performance in light of mutually agreed upon goals, and then to allocate tax dollars according to citizens’ needs and agencies’ performance. This would reduce or eliminate duplicative and wasteful spending, and ensure that Montanans’ hard earned money is spent on priorities rather than legacies.

MPI is Montana’s premier resource for free market, individual liberty educational and informational products. Citizens can also join MPI and donate to these projects at the website, www.montanapolicy.org.

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Contact:

Carl Graham, CEO, Montana Policy Institute: 406.600.1139

John Q. Murray, Investigative Reporter: 406.721.1129, johnqmurray@gmail.com

Montana Policy Institute, 1627 W. Main St #354, Bozeman, MT 59715

 

MCCAP Press Release

Press Release

Report challenges economics of Montana Climate Change Action Plan (MCCAP)

The Montana Policy Institute has published a report challenging MCCAP methodology and conclusions

Bozeman, MT. April 23rd, 2008: The Montana Policy Institute, a new nonpartisan policy research organization in Montana, has just released a study by the Beacon Hill Institute challenging the economic assumptions and methodology employed by Montana’s Climate Change Advisory Group’s recently released Montana Climate Change Action Plan (MCCAP). The study does not address the science of climate change or attempt to assign motives to the Advisory Group’s recommendations. It simply examines the economics of the MCCAP plan and the methodology employed to assess the plan’s costs and benefits.

The study concludes that:

• MCCAP costs and benefits are not quantified in a way that allows them to be compared. Estimated costs to reduce greenhouse gases of between $93 million to $691 million are set against metric tons of greenhouse gases reduced, without any attempt to weigh the benefits of reducing those gases against the costs of reducing them;

• When estimating economic impacts, costs are sometimes misinterpreted as benefits;

• Cost estimates leave out important factors, including program expenses, alternative scenarios, demand-based consumer responses, and other factors, resulting in unrealistically low best-case figures.

These shortcomings disqualify the MCCAP as a scientifically sound basis for public policy. The Montana Policy Institute believes that a comprehensive cost/benefit analysis using realistic assumptions and sound economic principles should be conducted before Montana policymakers decide to create new mandates, new bureaucracies, and new open-ended spending commitments. The stakes are too high on both sides of the climate change issue to accept anything less than a full and honest debate.

 

The complete study can be found at: www.montanapolicy.org.

The Montana Policy Institute is a nonpartisan, tax exempt policy research organization focusing on Montana solutions to Montana problems. Our mission is to equip Montana citizens and decision makers to better evaluate state public policy options from the perspective of limited government, individual liberty, and individual responsibility.