By HDN staff
The rallying cry of the 1992 presidential campaign to paraphrase was "it's the economy, stupid." Likewise, the same thing holds true for Montana today. Our state battles adjacent states for the dubious distinction of being last or near last in every economic indicator. Montana's household income has failed to keep pace with that of the rest of the country.
Last year's legislature rightfully concluded to spur economic development, research was essential. Both sides agreed to the necessity. However, the battle lines were drawn on how to fund it.
The so called rainy day constitutionally protected Coal Trust Fund seemed to be an easy revenue source. Republican representatives argued how much more of an economic downpour was needed, however Democratic representatives disagreed. Both parties knew the votes required to raid the funds were simply not there. Instead of practically negotiating other alternatives, the Republican majority took the easy way out, and created, to the surprise of few, an unconstitutional option. Consequently when the Montana Supreme Court struck down House Bill 260 by a 5-2 majority, not many of our state legislators were surprised.
It is our opinion the much needed economic research contained in House Bill 260 should be addressed in a special session. We think it is time for lawmakers from both sides to put party politics aside and find a legal way to fund this research.
After all "it's the economy, stupid."