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Montanans frustrated with Legislature wasting time

by By Kim Abbott and Pat Flowers
| March 12, 2023 12:00 AM

The 2023 Legislature has made it to the session’s halfway point. For those who spend their time at the Capitol, it means marathon days, intense rhetoric and heightened tempers.

We went into this session laser-focused on an agenda that supports Montana families, like cutting property taxes for Montana working families, investing in housing Montanans can afford, ensuring parents can find and afford child care, strengthening health care to keep nursing homes open,and ensuring that people can see a doctor when they need to.

Unfortunately, Montana Republicans have lost sight of the problems their constituents elected them to solve. They spent the first half of this legislative session blowing through $1 billion in irresponsible tax handouts to the wealthy and wasting time attacking women, the LGBTQ+ community, doctors, nurses, teachers and librarians. They are even going after Montana business owners.

We’ve worked hard to stop bills ranging from hurtful and mean-spirited to outrageously fiscally irresponsible. We’ve had some success, like making progress on Medicaid reimbursement rates, which will help ensure that nursing homes stay open and health care is accessible to rural Montana. But we know that bills are getting through that will harm Montanans.

We hear from Montanans who are frustrated with what is happening in Helena. Often these individuals are from outside our districts. People in every county struggle to put food on the table, find childcare and afford a home in the community they love. They call and ask why we are wasting time going after people just trying to live free from politicians restricting their constitutional rights.

We wish we could answer that question for you. But we can tell you that we are doing everything possible to get this train back on track. As the budget process continues, Montana Democrats will continue to push for a fair budget that works for Montana families, workers, and businesses. We know that the Republicans’ plan fails to meet the scale of the crises facing Montana, and also has no vision for the future. It is essential that we save more of the historic budget surplus as a safeguard against the economic uncertainties on the horizon.

We encourage everyone to reach out to their legislators and talk to them about their priorities. Ask them what they are doing to ensure housing policies will build homes people can actually afford – not just mansions for those at the top. Ask them what they have done to provide real relief for renters. Ask them about the massive tax cut that went to the wealthiest. Ask them why they keep voting against ensuring families have child care, so businesses have workers to stay open. Ask them if they will support funding to community health care providers. Ask them why they are attacking the basic rights of our friends and neighbors.

We have 45 days left in this session. It isn’t much time, but we promise you that we will keep working for you whether you live in our districts or not and whether you voted for us or not. We want you to have the life you deserve, including being able to afford to live in your community, having a safe place for your kids while you work at a job that pays you a good salary, and being able to live your life as you choose without politicians in Helena dictating your personal decisions.

Rep. Kim Abbott, D-Helena, is the Minority Leader in the Montana House of Representatives. Sen. Pat Flowers, D-Belgrade, is the Minority Leader in the Montana Senate.