Republicans Exercising a Little Discipline

Republicans Exercising a Little Discipline

Gianforte releases endorsement list of Republican Legislators.  Lola is out.

In a rare flexing of political muscle, Greg Gianforte took a little time off from increasing our property taxes and kicking sick people off Medicaid to issue a list of Republican primary candidates he is endorsing. In Cascade County, Lola Sheldon-Galloway’s opponent in the race for Senate District 13, Josh Kassmier, got the nod from Gianforte.  Too bad for Lola.  Maybe Gianforte didn’t like her hats.

In Gallatin County, Gianforte endorsed newcomer Kyle McMurry over incumbent, Jane Gillette.   He also weighed in on a three-way primary, endorsing Scott Sales over Caleb Hinkle and Jennifer Carlson.  Both Hinkle and Carlson are incumbents.  Sales currently is the Director of the Montana Lottery but has served in the legislature before.  Equally telling is who is not on Gianforte’s endorsement list. Neither House Speaker Matt Regier nor House Speaker Pro Tempore Rhonda Knudsen received an endorsement from Gianforte.  For the complete story: 

Meanwhile Over at Montana Association of Conservatives PAC. . .

Donald Trump Jr. came to Missoula on April 28 to speak at an event to promote the campaigns of Greg Gianforte, Tim Sheehy and Ryan Zinke.  The event is being “brought to you by” the Montana Association of Conservatives Political Action Committee (MAC PAC) and an organization called Public Square.  A quick look at Public Square and you will see “merch” for sale with catchy phrases like, “Stop Supporting Commies” and “This Girl Loves Capitalism,”  alongside other, less political products. (If you are a glutton for punishment, you can check out a Breitbart interview with Public Square CEO Michael Seifert.  Among other things he says you can purchase diapers from the only pro-life diaper company in the country! The  whole thing is kind of creepy)   WTF406 has no idea how these folks are complying with campaign law. But, if the event is “public” and held in a public building like the University Center, denying certain candidates entry because of who they are running against is likely a violation of state law.

Regardless of the sketchy nature of the event, the other news is that Republican Governor candidate Tanner Smith (Randy Pinocci is his running mate), Gianforte’s opponent in the Republican Primary, had his $75 registration fee returned and was told he was not welcome to attend. In addition, Charles Walking Child, who is challenging Tim Sheehy in the Republican Primary for US Senate, was also disinvited from the event.  Brad Johnson, who is also running against Tim Sheehy, said that he did not purchase a ticket after not being allowed to speak at a meeting of Yellowstone County Republicans. 

Responding to comments from Smith, a spokesperson for Gianforte said, “The governor did not organize this event, instead, the governor was invited to and is attending Sunday’s Protecting Freedom Event with Donald Trump, Jr.”  Cameo Flood, spokesperson for MAC PAC, declined to provide additional comment.  Brad Johnson, long-time Republican activist, state office holder and current primary challenger to Tim Sheehy ,said, “I’ve never seen it like this, It’s just absurd, 

Montanans don’t like being told what to do,”  For a complete story: 

Many of us are concerned about the authoritarian turn of the Republican Party in recent years.  These guys simply don’t tolerate disagreement.  We are seeing how Republican leadership exercises power internally. Bad as this is, it is nothing compared to how they treat other political opponents who are not members of their own party.

Gianforte’s Tax Cuts– Been There, Done That

Gianforte’s Tax Cuts– Been There, Done That

By Ken Toole

The great thing about human beings is that we learn from past mistakes.  Unless you are Governor Greg Gianforte and his Republican allies in the legislature.  As the Governor rolls out his package of tax cuts, and legislators clamor to get on board, it seems that no one remembers the 2003 Montana Legislature and Senate Bill 407, Judy Martz’s big tax cut plan that failed to deliver on its promises.

But before getting into the lessons from Senate Bill 407, let’s refresh ourselves on the economic theory that is driving Republicans to promote big tax cuts for the wealthy. It’s called “trickle down” economics.  The idea is to give tax cuts to wealthy people who will then hire more people and pay more taxes which will lead to a better world.  It turns out that cutting taxes on the wealthy just allows them to put more dollars into things like stock buybacks, offshore accounts, and other financial mechanisms that simply make them richer and do little for community investment.  Even though most economists have debunked “trickle down economics,” Republican politicians cling to it as an article of faith and continue to promote it.

Now, back to 2003 and Senate Bill 407.  Judy Martz was the Governor, and Republicans held majorities in both houses of the legislature.  Then as now, Republicans were supremely confident that tax cuts result in increased revenue by stimulating growth.  So they passed significant reductions to capital gains taxes and  the income tax rates paid by wealthy individuals.  

Specifically, SB 407 reduced the tax rate on top income earners (that’s tax speak for rich people) from 11% to 6.5%.  It also created a 1% tax credit for capital gains income (that’s tax speak for money people make selling things like stock and real estate).  Sounding familiar?  Gianforte is proposing to reduce the top income tax rate along with giving a tax credit to people paying capital gains taxes.  

But the real story about SB 407 is just how wrong the projections of the effect on  public services and state revenue turned out to be.  It ended up costing more than its promoters promised. . .lots more. In 2011 the Department of Revenue conducted an analysis of the fiscal impact of SB 407.  Among other things the analysis concluded that the cut in income tax turned out to cost more than three times the projections during the 2003 legislature.  The cost of the capital gains tax cut was double the projections.  That meant much  less money available for schools, local governments, and basic public services.  Not surprisingly, the analysis also showed that the beneficiaries of these tax cuts largely turned out to be rich people.  

So, here we sit in 2023, just like 2003. Republicans control both houses of the legislature and the Governor’s Office.  And just like 2003, these politicians seek to cut taxes mostly on rich people.  But there is a big difference as well.  In 2003 the state was facing a budget crisis. Thanks to Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan Act, in 2023 we have a big budget surplus and, along with that, we have the opportunity to invest in our institutions and infrastructure. While rural nursing homes are closing across the state, while the State Hospital is crumbling before our eyes, while cities and counties are struggling to make ends meet, while schools are hard pressed to find qualified staff, why would we make it a priority to give tax breaks to the wealthiest among us before those problems are addressed?  The answer from the Republicans is, “Just be patient. It will all trickle down.”

Ken Toole was a member of the Senate Tax Committee in 2001, 2003, and 2005.  He served as the vice chair in 2005.  He served on the Public Service Commission from 2007 to 2011.  He was also the President of The Policy Institute, a private group which conducted research on economic issues including taxation.