For Immediate Release
Memo to Legislators
From Marc Racicot
April 20, 1997
At this moment we are at a delicate time both in this current legislative session and our states history. Decisions you and I make tomorrow will live with us for some time to come. This should give each of us serious pause.
It is supremely important that we communicate with each other candidly and honestly, which is why I am sending this somewhat unusual message today. I want to ensure as you make some very important decisions tomorrow that you--and by extension all Montanans--understand where I stand and what I am prepared to do, just as I hope to understand your actions.
The legislative branch and the executive branch often view things differently. This is not only natural. It is virtually required by the constitutional makeup of our government and the separation of powers. It is true, I have never been a member of the Legislature. Of course, most Montanans have never been members of the Legislature. And only 20 Montanans have ever been Governor.
Fortunately, one need not be elected to understand the importance of the collective wisdom of the legislative branch and the importance of the separation of powers. There will always be tensions between the branches of our government, regardless of party control. It can be a healthy tension if we prohibit the possibility of inappropriate influence coloring the important work of governing this last best place.
Heres the current problem: The Legislature has decided to do some new things but not to fund them. And the Legislature has decided not to fund some existing and ongoing responsibilities that are essential and necessary. While members of the Legislature will soon return to their homes and other lives, the Executive branch will be left behind to run state government for the next 20 months. We simply cannot do the things the Legislature has directed without appropriate funding.
We have accomplished an incredible amount working together in recent sessions. Both branches have learned much of value from each other. Working together, we have designed, approved and successfully implemented likely the largest reorganization in state government history, eliminating two departments and completely reshaping the executive branch with more efficiency and effectiveness. Working together, we have designed, approved and implemented a truly impressive array of reforms that put the Workers Compensation system well along the road to fiscal salvation and stability. Working together, we have completely rebuilt our ancient and ineffective welfare system with some of the most far-reaching reforms in the nation, stressing accountability and savings. Working together, we addressed and eliminated a potential $200 million budget deficit in 1993 and even produced a budget surplus, which we returned to the taxpayers who earned it. Working together, we have controlled government spending, addressed the states ongoing responsibilities in education and other areas, continued a series of major incremental tax reforms and begun the largest infrastructure rebuilding program in the states history, all without any general tax increases.
Working together, we have jointly addressed this session the paramount issue of our citizens personal security. We have through hard work, openness and dedication reached a constructive understanding which, although it does little for the longterm, does make a significant commitment to the immediate shortterm needs of our citizens and of our corrections system. And together, we have prevented a massive increase in property taxes that would have struck our citizens hard.
In other areas, however, we have fallen short. What about our foster care obligations, our commitment to the positive and preventive powers of loving families? What about cuts in the family residency program? What about asking our Highway Patrol to address growing challenges with fewer officers and less equipment? What about reducing death penalty delays? What about eliminating the School Improvement Program that puts at risk $25 million in federal funding?
What about placing the university systems additional operating funds contingent upon revenues unavailable until Dec. 15, 1998, just two weeks before the next legislature? One budget decision eliminates previously approved funding for special education. Another will force the university system to renege on contract pay agreements already signed. We need not pit segments of Montana society against each other to accomplish our mutual goals.
The Constitutional mandate of this office is to look at the statewide picture. For many months now we have made it clear, in public and in private, to anyone who would listen all of the details of that big picture, what we think, after more than a years study and analysis, is necessary to run government services up to the brink of the next milennium.
We have accepted numerous changes to our proposed budget and I have made it clear that I am not interested in merely spending to make a point. I am, in fact, not interested in spending one more penny than is absolutely necessary. Similarly, I do not believe the Legislature should be interested in merely not spending to make a point.
At the moment House Bill 2 does not adequately provide for Montanas future. As a result, in its current form I cannot and will not approve it. I thought you and our fellow Montanans should know this before your important vote.