A little over a year ago, in the fall of 2017, Governor Bullock called a special legislative session that resulted in very drastic budget/funding cuts. On the chopping block were three of Montana’s largest funded departments: the Department of Corrections, the state university system, and the Department of Public Health and Human Services.
This drastic move was prompted by the numbers given by the Governor’s offices’ team of financial forecasters, who marked the state’s revenue loss for the fiscal year to be near $227 million. (Current, ‘hindsight’ calculations put our 2017 revenue losses at ‘only’ $29 million…..)
So, just HOW did those in charge manage to ‘math’ so horribly; getting the numbers so terribly, thoroughly wrong? What was the starting prompt that caused the ground shaking proportions of our state’s public services to be widely unfunded?
First off, the 2017 state budget (decided in the legislature nearly 9 months before) had been calculated using overly enthusiastic numbers; seeing the state’s incoming revenue through rose-colored glasses, that, in retrospect, must’ve been brighter than a flamingo. This bloated estimation of incoming funds gave the legislature a far-skewed idea of where the ‘start line’ was on the state spending ‘track’, allowed our ‘Rotunda-runners’ out in Helena to ostensibly overspend governmental monies. *
The ‘rainy day fund’ was nearly bone-dry….but, the summer weather, and Mother Nature seemingly ‘burned’ whatever extra cash we had up; the wildfire season had been a boon that year, with 2017’s fire fighting costs, combined with footing the check for many communal (minimalistic) attempts at risk mitigation landing the season’s spending bill marked at $393 million.
By the fall of 2017, it was apparent; that initial deft miscalculation of available monies, resulting in our annual overspending, PLUS the extreme cost of the previous year’s fire season, had, overall, put the outcome of Governor Bullock’s ordained oversight of our state’s budget plans FAR into the dunce corner.
(news coverage of Bullock’s proposed cuts found here, article quoted below. )
“What we saw was overwhelming opposition to the Governor’s proposal to have the three and a half to five percent reductions in provider payment rates for Medicaid services,” Olszewski said. “We had a little over two and a half hours of testimony from people who were allowed to speak between a minute and a half and two minutes. There were two full meeting rooms and we had to switch out people after an hour and it looked like we had about 90 people who spoke in opposition. No one spoke in favor of the Governor’s reductions.”
Olszewski said that one state representative voiced the majority view that the responsibility for the crisis in Medicaid service provider payments should be laid at the feet of Governor Bullock.
Thankfully, by July of this last summer (2018), Bullock announced that state agencies that suffered some $70 million + in budget cuts during that ‘special-session’ slaughterhouse of the fall prior would soon be seeing a bit of that backing money restored. Although he accredited the recovery to a case of rapidly rebounding state-revenues, anyone with a tad of common sense could see that the true correction causation must’ve originated from an avid audit, and realistic (at least to a higher degree than before..?) review of the previous year’s actual state ‘budget’ (income versus spending versus loans, yadda yadda yadda…).
Now, here we are, quarter-ways over from a YEAR later, and it seems that Bullock has again jumped on the Medicaid expansion bandwagon. But why?
Well, in an announcement given earlier this month, Bullock stated:
Let’s talk about it Bullock, lets talk about it. Its time.