Posts

Bozeman Daily Chronicle Op Ed: Improve Medicaid Before Expanding It

 

Gov. Bullock waited until nearly 60 of the 2013 legislative session’s 90 days had passed before making a Medicaid expansion proposal that essentially said “do what the feds want.” That’s a wasted opportunity. Since Medicaid rules are made in Washington, D.C., we frittered away a chance to negotiate reforms that could better meet the needs of Montana’s most at-risk population while also being fair to taxpayers.

Continue reading here

Baseline Budget Better Than Base-Bloated Budget

This is a good development.

The “Present Law” budget that is the normal starting point for building a new biennial budget is basically the previous one plus an inflation factor plus a case load factor, plus any changes that were required during the biennium plus…, well you get the idea. The result is that it guarantees the starting point for a new budget is larger than the old one, and any reductions in that budget are treated as cuts, even though the actual spending amount is probably more than last year’s. That’s just dishonest.

The feds do the same thing. They budget a billion dollars for a program to search for green cheese on the moon and then ‘cut’ that program and claim a billion dollars in savings even though it had never been spent before and nobody ever really intended it to be spent in the future. It’s purely political gamesmanship meant to allow politicians to claim they cut spending when in reality they probably raised it.

So…when someone says they’re making a cut to the budget be sure to ask them if they’re cutting hypothetical spending or if they’re actually cutting spending, i.e. will this year’s spending be less than last year’s. And then watch as they take out their hanky and explain how complicated the whole process is and that you should just take their word at face value.

Even baseline budgeting doesn’t solve the problem of waste, though. It assumes, for example, that every nickel spent last year was both efficiently and effectively expended. That’s not necessarily the case. The real answer is performance-based budgeting, which allocates dollars based on a program’s demonstrated ability to achieve agreed-upon government missions and functions, and then prioritizes available dollars to get the biggest bang for the buck. In short, it’s how you and I allocate our spending every day. You can read a lot more about it, along with a pension system primer and tax analysis in our new Budgeting For Results study.

Montana Pig Tales

Once upon a time there was a wonderful land with untold riches. This land had fertile soil to grow more food than the locals could eat, gems and minerals that were sought after worldwide, trees for their houses and abundant fuel for their stoves. This wonderful land was filled with opportunity, and happy families prospered with each generation better off than the previous.
There were also helpful folks in the land’s Capitol City who worked for the happy families and did the kinds of things that everyone could benefit from. They built roads and schools and made sure everybody played by the same rules. And they kept the king in far-away DC Land from trying to run their lives. But then something happened, something awful and selfish.

The people in DC Land and Capitol City stopped working for the happy families and started ruling over them. They grew larger and larger and decided to regulate and tax and dictate more and more parts of the happy families’ lives. The land of opportunity became a land of limitations. Laws were passed to protect people from themselves instead of just from each other. Rules were made keeping the happy families from using all the riches that the land offered and pitting them against each other. The land with untold riches became one of the poorest in the kingdom. The happy families could no longer pass on opportunities they had enjoyed. And so the once-happy land got older and poorer, until finally the only people who could enjoy its beauty came from other places. The land of opportunity became a land of futility. And the once happy families were scattered to the winds.

Montana is still that happy land of opportunity, but we won’t pass that heritage along to our kids if we continue the current path of bigger government, more regulation, and control by Washington bureaucrats. We still have the riches that made Montana the Treasure State, but we’re losing the legacy of opportunity that those riches could provide. We increasingly have a government that has become its own special interest instead of our employee. And we’re being tied down with one size fits all solutions that may be great for New York or Mississippi, but not for Montana.

Welcome to “Pig Tales: Wasted Treasure in the Treasure State” — a one-stop shopping guide to Montana government. This is the second in a biennial look at Montana state government, our people, and our opportunities.

Our simple goal is help provide as much useful information as possible so that as the people who represent us make decisions that affect our lives and our families, we will have a confident and informed voice. Enjoy the tale!

Click here for full PDF (8MB!)

Interested in a hard copy or two? We’ll have them for purchase right here coming soon. Can’t wait? Call us at 406-219-0508 to place your order or email us at info@montanapolicy.org. In order to break even, we will be charging $3.50 for quantities up to 10 and $3.00/copy for quantities over 10. These prices include shipping and handling.

Budgeting for Results: A Fiscal Roadmap for Montana Study (2010)

Budgeting for Results: A Fiscal Roadmap for Montana Policy Note (2010)

For Full Study: Budgeting_for Results_Full_Study 2010

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.