The 2013 legislative session was an incredible opportunity for Montana, an opportunity to reinvest in our state following a 2011 Legislature that proposed damaging and unnecessary budget cuts. It was a chance to wisely invest a $435 million budget surplus in ways that help our families boost our economy. In short, the 2015 budget could have represented a new, stronger direction for Montana. However, certain failures of the legislature, primarily the failure to expand Medicaid to 70,000 Montanans meant the 2015 budget did not live up to its potential.
Early childhood is a crucial time of learning and growth for children. Montana is one of only ten states with no state-funded pre-kindergarten system. Studies have shown that investing in pre-k is one of the most effective investments a state can make, with significant benefits for children and the state's fiscal health. This report gives an overview of the the current research on early childhood education, and describes the benefits state-funded pre-k could have in Montana. Read more here.
With more and more sessions drawing to a close, the latest count shows 15 states that have rejected expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, 20 that have agreed to comply with the law and expand coverage, and the rest still debating expansion. In many states -- including Florida and Ohio -- that debate is playing out in a contentious intramural fight among conservatives themselves. Conservative governors supporting expansion are running into opposition from ideologically opposed lawmakers in their own party, as the political debate over Medicaid increasingly appears to be taking place entirely on one side of the aisle:
Taxes are on the minds of many this week as April 15th approaches. They're also on the minds of many conservative governors -- in states such as Louisiana, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Nebraska -- who have seen their radical tax proposals to further enrich corporations and the wealthy run into major resistance from voters, businesses, and even conservative lawmakers. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, who this week withdrew his regressive plan that would have eliminated the state income tax while raising the sales tax, has seen his standing drop sharply in the polls. In the run up to Tax Day, increasing attention is being focused on how tax breaks for the wealthy and corporations increase burdens on the middle class.
With the long lines on Election Day still somewhat fresh in the minds of voters, and as the year kicks off with efforts to rig the electoral vote and lessen the impact of the votes of historically disenfranchised communities, lawmakers in some states are introducing proposals to expand and protect the vote:
This fall, voters in some states and cities will have the chance to do more than just push back. Initiatives are on the ballot that would directly confront the destruction that austerity economics has wrought on communities, while building national momentum behind policies to revitalize our economy and protect our democracy. All kinds of issues are at stake, from workers’ rights to corporate influence in politics, to whether corporations and the luckiest few will pay their fair share in taxes. While voters will be electing a president, governors, Congress, and thousands of state legislators this November 6, here are a few places where a progressive vision will also be on the ballot:
A huge victory in Montana last week restored the state’s longstanding ban on corporate political spending on behalf of state political candidates and parties, overturning a lower court’s ruling and flying in the face of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision that grants corporations the same free speech rights as individuals.