$8M of MT money for a border wall? No thank you!

Sunday, January 27, 2019

What other papers say

The Butte Weekly recently ran an editorial cartoon that depicts a dazed and confused Montana Sen. Scott Sales (R-Bozeman) with a bone protruding from his noggin.

The cartoon is fitting after Sales proposed sending $8 million of your Montana taxpayer money to the Mexican border to help fund President Donald Trump’s proposed $5.7 billion border wall.

It’s a bonehead idea that most certainly won’t gain any traction during Montana’s 66th Legislative Session, which kicked off earlier this month in Helena.

What’s certain, however, is that the proposed legislation from Sales is little more than political grandstanding and an absolute waste of time. Sales would be wise to cut the shenanigans and get back to work on behalf of all Montanans and deciding how to spend our hard-earned tax revenue here in the Treasure State.

It’s understandable why some Park County residents were miffed by the proposal to earmark Montana cash for a controversial project along the Mexican border.

If you’re among those who support this daffy pitch from Sales, consider the fact that since Montana’s last Legislative session in 2017, the state has shuttered a number of essential services in Park County in response to budget cuts.

Those cuts led to the closing of the local Office of Public Assistance, Job Service Office, Mental Health Center and a reduction in staff in Livingston’s Child and Family Service Office.

We could fill the remainder of this space with examples of why the Bozeman legislator’s proposal is ridiculous, but suffice it to say Montana taxpayer money shouldn’t be diverted to a federal construction project when we have our own infrastructure needs. It’s also hard to justify using Montana money on a border wall when teachers in the Treasure State are still buying supplies out of their own pockets.

One positive note to emerge from the border wall folly is that none of our local legislators are drinking the Scott Sales Kool-Aid — at least not on this issue.

Livingston Enterprise reporter Johnathan Hettinger contacted the three legislators who represent the Park County area — Rep. Laurie Bishop (D-Livingston), Sen. John Esp (R-Big Timber) and Alan Redfield (R-Paradise Valley) — to see just where they stand on the issue.

Redfield couldn’t hold back his laughter when asked whether he supports the proposal. Redfield said he in no way supports the idea.

“That’s just an attention thing. They throw that to be a smokescreen,” Redfield told The Enterprise.

Redfield added, “You can’t always take these people seriously, and then people get all wound up.”

Sen. Esp also shrugged off the proposal to use Montana taxpayer money to pay the state’s “share” of Trump’s $5.7 billion request to pay for a border wall. Esp pointed out that there are other more pressing issues facing Montana.

Rep. Bishop offered similar comments, pointing out that it would be difficult to justify pitching away $8 million of Montana’s money when local schools are in need of roofs and boilers.

“That $8 million would buy a lot of school boilers and roofs that would help our community,” Bishop told The Enterprise. “We have no business sending money out of state for a questionable public need. If we have $8 million to spend out of state, we have $8 million to buy a boiler and roof for our schools.”

Our state delegation should be commended for focusing on statewide issues, especially those that have a direct impact on Park County.

There’s lots of work left during this legislative session in Helena. Let’s leave the divisive national debate over the border wall to our Congressional delegation in Washington, D.C.

— Justin Post

Livingston Enterprise Managing Editor