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. Read more here.
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.
In 2013, the Montana Legislature had the opportunity to accept federal funds to expand the state’s Medicaid program, a move that would provide access to health care for nearly 70,000 low- and moderate-income Montanans and boost the state’s workforce and economy. Efforts to advance legislation received bipartisan support. Unfortunately, the final compromise bill became a victim of political gamesmanship.
The fight to expand Medicaid is not over. Montana has a variety of policy options to enact expansion. The stakes are high. Tens of thousands of Montanans wait for access to much-needed health care, and Montana risks losing millions of dollars in federal support if policymakers delay the decision past the end of 2013. Read the full report here.
In 2012, Montana Budget & Policy Center launched a collaborative project to improve access to information on how budget and policy decisions impact Montana’s Native Americans. State and federal budgets both play a significant role in relieving poverty and building economic opportunity in Indian Country and have a significant impact on the lives of American Indians living both on and off reservations in Montana. Most recently, the 2013 Legislature considered a number of bills that held direct implications for American Indians in our state. See the report here.
Tara Veazey, Executive Director of the Montana Budget and Policy Center, stated, “This session, seventy thousand uninsured Montanans were denied health coverage that would have saved lives, lowered health care costs for all of us, and protected rural hospitals struggling with uncompensated care. A billion dollars in federal funds that Montanans helped pay for- and over 12,000 jobs it would have created- were denied. Thousands of Montanans, rural hospitals, doctors, nurses, business leaders, chambers of commerce, health care experts, and economists were all ignored by legislative leadership. It is a sad day for good public policy, and it is a sad day for representative democracy in Montana.” Read more here.
Beginning today, 131,000 people in Montana will see their food assistance benefits cut, when a temporary boost to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) expires. These cuts will have devastating impacts on Montanas families, community services, and economy. Read more in our recent press release.
A strong economy allows for the creation and retention of local jobs, the establishment and growth of businesses, and the ability to keep money in the local community. There, those dollars have multiplying effects that drive economic growth, especially in Indian Country. Since 2005, the Indian Country Economic Development (ICED) program has empowered Montana’s tribes to take a hands-on approach to strengthening reservation economies. See our report about the ICED program here.
Montana has the highest percentage of uninsured veterans in the nation (17.3%). Approximately 9,000 veterans have no insurance, and about 5,000 more report having only VA health care. Military veterans and their families are among the Montanans who would benefit from the expansion of Medicaid currently being considered by the Montana Legislature. As many as 9,500 Montana veterans and their spouses would gain access to quality, affordable health care coverage if lawmakers choose to expand Medicaid. Read MBPC's full fact sheet here.
Tax credit scholarships are not a viable option for Montana. When these programs have been implemented in other states, they have failed to improve access to high-quality education or save the state money. Instead, tax credit scholarships divert funding away from public schools, jeopardizing the state’s ability to encourage further improvements and innovation within the public school system. Read MBPC's full report here.