As your elected Representative, I enjoy these opportunities to report back to you on what's being done in Helena in your name. It was the citizens who sent us here, and we must be accountable to those citizens.
The big news last week was the Montana stimulus bill. It was House Bill 645, and it came up for a vote on the floor of the House of Representatives on Thursday.
Many of us have grave misgivings about the federal government's stimulus package. It's too much pork, too much politics, too much government spending, and too much debt for our children and grandchildren.
And for what? What are we gaining by mortgaging our children's future?
The Americorps volunteer program is getting $500,000. How does a volunteer program create paying jobs? Culbertson and Malta are getting $225,900 each to build female latrines at their national guard armory. I will be the first to admit that those will create some construction jobs while they're being built. What happens after the building is done, though? Once the construction is over, how does a restroom create jobs? When our grandchildren are paying the debt for this, will they get anything out of it?
I don't call that building for a better future.
Since the federal government sent the money, Montana should at least been able to spend it on projects that would still be creating jobs even three years down the line.
At the very least, Montana needs a stimulus oversight commission. While all these federal dollars are being spent, we need to make absolutely certain it's being spent in a legitimate way. The only way to be certain of that is to have an oversight commission that includes members of the public. Government must be accountable to the people.
Fortunately, there's a bill moving through the process that would accomplish exactly that. Senator Bob Story, President of the Senate, has introduced a bill to create a stimulus oversight commission. Known as Senate Bill 460, it passed the Senate and is now over on our side of the building. Currently the Appropriations committee is studying it. When it comes to the full House, I'll be voting to pass that.
The federal stimulus wasn't the only business the House worked on this week. I'm happy to report that we had a preliminary success in cutting some taxes. The specific tax in question is the double tax on license plates.
Right now, if you buy a used car, that car is taxed twice. The first time, is when the old owner pays the property taxes for the year. The second time is when the taxes are due again again within a month of when the new owner buys it.
Granted, the State is in somewhat of a financial bind, but tax fairness is the overriding issue. In these challenging economic times, more and more Montanans are buying used cars. And for the government to make them pay extra taxes is an unfair burden on those citizens.
The bill to fix this situation is House Bill 187, sponsored by my colleague Janna Taylor. It was stalled in the House Appropriations Committee on a tie vote. All the Democrats in that committee were voting to continue double taxing used car buyers.
But on Saturday of last week, the full house successfully voted to pull the bill out of the Appropriations committee and vote on it. Look for those results in my next column.