State Senator Denise Hayman

Leaders of Montana’s state government have two responsibilities: enacting policies that benefit Montanans and running the government efficiently and effectively. Increasingly, however, the Republicans are failing Montana taxpayers on both counts.

On policy, Republicans spent last year’s legislative session focused on tax cuts for the wealthy while increasing residential property taxes on working Montanans and trying to take away our individual freedoms such as voting or abortion rights.

In addition to pursuing bad policies, it’s now clear that Governor Greg Gianforte and Republicans are incapable of running our state government, acting with an ineptness that costs taxpayers money and harms Montana families.

For someone who claims to have special management skills, the Governor certainly has done a lousy job running Montana’s government. Over and over again during the past four years, his Administration has come up short.

One of Governor Gianforte’s most harmful actions was to throw more than 120,000 Montanans off their health care through the state-federal Medicaid program. Any capable Administration would have stopped this disaster, and most states did act to continue health care for their citizens.

Montana, however, was one of the worst states for kicking people off their health care coverage. These actions will result in little short-term savings but will cost taxpayers millions of dollars in the long run because of the harm to children, lower income working families, rural health care providers, and small businesses.

Or take his decision last summer to refuse to join a food program for 73,000 hungry Montana children. Despite available federal funding and a surplus state budget, the Governor’s staff claimed the paperwork was too hard—even while 35 other states successfully participated in the program. Such incompetence harms kids and costs Montana taxpayers money many times over.

Then there’s the failed management of Warm Springs, which employees have called like “being stuck in a recurring bad dream.” The facility, which provides vital psychiatric care for family members, lost its certification two years ago, experiences constant turnover, and has been marked by patient deaths, falls, and other safety concerns.

Similarly, when 12 nursing homes across Montana closed in the past few years, leaving many families desperate to find coverage for their loved ones, the Governor’s response was to propose a budget that continued to short-change long-term care and would have resulted in more nursing homes closing. Only pressure and hard work by Democrats brought in additional needed funding.

Then there’s Elsie Arntzen’s tenure as Superintendent of Public Instruction which has been marred by gross incompetence and a steady stream of bad news for students, teachers, and families. Even Republican legislators openly criticized Arntzen’s performance. Teacher pay is among the lowest in the country, fueling teacher vacancies, and programs to improve student enrollment are floundering.

Montanans deserve better. We must hold the state government—which should be working for us—responsible. That starts by putting Montanans first and foremost. Democrats firmly believe that state government should be run effectively to ensure public safety while helping create opportunity for Montana families, small businesses, and retirees. We should expect and demand no less and together we can create a better tomorrow for ourselves and our children.

Senator Hayman serves Senate District 33.