The fiscal picture for Montana continues to slide and the suggestions of band-aids to tide us over until the legislature are being offered from all sides. Most of those suggestions come with the plea "everyone but me" needs to cut back.
Everyone of the ideas that I have seen so far only deal with the cutting of services to Montanans and not with the reduction of the overgrown government that has been building and growing for more years than I can remember. We talk about job growth in the state and the spending of stimulus dollars to spur on our economy, however if you look close at the numbers the majority of job retention and growth has been in the public sector. Adding or retaining a job that relies on public funds drags more money out of the pockets of the real job creators, our small businesses. The higher the cost to support government, the fewer employees that can be hired and the lower the benefits' that can be paid. Government should not be our largest growth industry. If you compare wages, benefits and job security, working for the government is far above what private industry can offer.
The Montana economy is following the rest of the country into the tank. Government and public services must mirror the economy and so must rein in their spending as well. The taxpayers of Montana cannot be asked to sacrifice more just to support the government who has continued to offer job stability and benefits when the rest of us have to do without.
I continue to hear that the cuts to services are going to be devastating to the affected people. That may be the case, but when you consider that we have had an increase in the state budget of over 42% in the past 5 years, a reduction of 10% should not be difficult to achieve. The first reduction should be in the cost of delivering the service not in the service itself.
Revenue "enhancement" must not be an option. Any increase in taxes only serve to increase the size of Government and not offer the relief that is many times discussed when the proposals are made. We are experiencing difficult times, we must not make it worse by ignoring the cause when searching for a solution. That cause is an overgrown government and lack of a relationship between the size and cost of government and the economy.
We must look at the cause of the losing of core industry jobs. Is Montana over regulated, over taxed, over mandated on workplace issues? Is it not competitive in transportation costs or restricted too much by environmental requirements? All of these issues must be considered to allow Montana to return to a strong, stable economy. With that, and a government that reflects the state in it's size and spending we can turn this around.
Government bureaucrats seem reluctant or even unwilling to accept the fact that whatever government spends, must first be taken from someone. Government does not create income, however, it does limit the ability of private businesses to make money through over regulation, fees and taxes. To spur on the economy and generate jobs the government needs to step out of the way and let it happen.
A strong economy is the only way to get Montana back on track. The smaller the government, the greater the growth in business and when business grows more people get back to work. We will then have the economy to support services and education.