Havre Daily News - News you can use

By Tim Leeds 

Local groups fear state funding cuts

 


A group of local officials and agency directors and representatives were direct in what they told an incoming legislator at a forum on Wednesday: Cuts in funding to state services would have a far-greater impact than the amount saved by the cuts.

"Everything you do at the state level is going to impact the local level," former Rep. John Musgrove. D-Havre, told Sen.-elect Rowlie Hutton, R-Havre, the sole member of the local legislators able to attend the forum. "Everything is inter-related. Everything is inter-related, and we have to look out for everybody."

The Montana Organizing Project is holding a series of forums across the state to discuss the impact the legislative session could have on social services.

Molly Moody, director of the project, said the purpose of the forums is to allow officials and agency representatives to talk about what services they provide and the importance of maintaining investments in services such as health care, education and transportation for people who are struggling with a recession.

She said at the close of the forum that the project is offering several ideas researched by the Montana Budget and Policy Center to raise additional revenue including working to collect unpaid taxes, working to close tax loopholes and use of targeted taxes such as on sugary drinks.

Barb Stiffarm, executive director of Opportunity Link Inc., said cuts in services would have a ripple effect that would affect many people.

For example, she said, the transit system implemented in north-central Montana impacts more than just the people using it — it also is helping businesses hire employees, who use the system to get to work, businesses sell goods and services to people who use the system to get to stores and appointments, and helps all by allowing people to get to school.

Cutting programs in virtually any area would have that kind of ripple effect, Stiffarm said.

Evelyn Havskjold, director of the Area X Agency on Aging and the Hill County Council on Aging, agreed. Cutting money to the Hill County agency would force cuts — whether it be in nutrition, help with medical issues, or keeping Hill County seniors active — that would lead to a greater cost with health problems.

"Any cuts now will be a cut that will have a ripple effect on our elderly population," she said.

Havre City Council member Gerry Veis said cuts to programs used by Havre would result in loss of services. Providing any service is straining the city budget, although the employees doing the work do an excellent job, he said.

"There is not any fat on the meat any more," Veis said.

Hill County commissioners Mike Wendland and Kathy Bessette said a major concern is a law passed by the 2001 Legislature that has the state collect local revenue, such as money raised through oil and gas exploration and production, and then sends it back to the local governments. Previously the local governments collected that revenue.

"Too often, we see taxes go to Helena, and we get a portion back," Wendland said. "That's a real issue to me."

Bessette said another problem with the system is a lack of transparency — it can be difficult or impossible, in some areas, for the local governments even to verify what was collected and what was due back to the local government.

Hutton said cutting programs is not what anyone wants, but balancing the budget will be difficult.

"Nobody I've talked to wants to go down to Helena and cut anything, but we do have some rough waters ahead of us," he said.

Hutton said people need to think outside the box.

"We ne

A group of local officials and agency directors and representatives were direct in what they told an incoming legislator at a forum on Wednesday: Cuts in funding to state services would have a far-greater impact than the amount saved by the cuts.

"Everything you do at the state level is going to impact the local level," former Rep. John Musgrove. D-Havre, told Sen.-elect Rowlie Hutton, R-Havre, the sole member of the local legislators able to attend the forum. "Everything is inter-related. Everything is inter-related, and we have to look out for everybody."

The Montana Organizing Project is holding a series of forums across the state to discuss the impact the legislative session could have on social services.

Molly Moody, director of the project, said the purpose of the forums is to allow officials and agency representatives to talk about what services they provide and the importance of maintaining investments in services such as health care, education and transportation for people who are struggling with a recession.

She said at the close of the forum that the project is offering several ideas researched by the Montana Budget and Policy Center to raise additional revenue including working to collect unpaid taxes, working to close tax loopholes and use of targeted taxes such as on sugary drinks.

Barb Stiffarm, executive director of Opportunity Link Inc., said cuts in services would have a ripple effect that would affect many people.

For example, she said, the transit system implemented in north-central Montana impacts more than just the people using it — it also is helping businesses hire employees, who use the system to get to work, businesses sell goods and services to people who use the system to get to stores and appointments, and helps all by allowing people to get to school.

Cutting programs in virtually any area would have that kind of ripple effect, Stiffarm said.

Evelyn Havskjold, director of the Area X Agency on Aging and the Hill County Council on Aging, agreed. Cutting money to the Hill County agency would force cuts — whether it be in nutrition, help with medical issues, or keeping Hill County seniors active — that would lead to a greater cost with health problems.

"Any cuts now will be a cut that will have a ripple effect on our elderly population," she said.

Havre City Council member Gerry Veis said cuts to programs used by Havre would result in loss of services. Providing any service is straining the city budget, although the employees doing the work do an excellent job, he said.

"There is not any fat on the meat any more," Veis said.

Hill County commissioners Mike Wendland and Kathy Bessette said a major concern is a law passed by the 2001 Legislature that has the state collect local revenue, such as money raised through oil and gas exploration and production, and then sends it back to the local governments. Previously the local governments collected that revenue.

"Too often, we see taxes go to Helena, and we get a portion back," Wendland said. "That's a real issue to me."

Bessette said another problem with the system is a lack of transparency — it can be difficult or impossible, in some areas, for the local governments even to verify what was collected and what was due back to the local government.

Hutton said cutting programs is not what anyone wants, but balancing the budget will be difficult.

"Nobody I've talked to wants to go down to Helena and cut anything, but we do have some rough waters ahead of us," he said.

Hutton said people need to think outside the box.

"We need to understand government is not our savior," Hutton said, adding that local groups and organizations can help provide services.

He used several actions of the church where he is head pastor, Fifth Avenue Christian Church, as an example. His church has helped provide day care to allow people to study for their GEDs at the District IV Human Resources Development Council, has provided meals for the YouthBuild Program at Montana State University-Northern, and provided space for training at the public schools.

"In these tough economic times … it starts with us on the local level," he said.

But Bessette warned Hutton that he and the other legislators "need to listen to the people in the trenches."

"We are telling you the story, and you need to listen," she said.

———

On the Net: Montana Budget and Policy Center: http://www.montanabudget.org

ed to understand government is not our savior," Hutton said, adding that local groups and organizations can help provide services.

He used several actions of the church where he is head pastor, Fifth Avenue Christian Church, as an example. His church has helped provide day care to allow people to study for their GEDs at the District IV Human Resources Development Council, has provided meals for the YouthBuild Program at Montana State University-Northern, and provided space for training at the public schools.

"In these tough economic times … it starts with us on the local level," he said.

But Bessette warned Hutton that he and the other legislators "need to listen to the people in the trenches."

"We are telling you the story, and you need to listen," she said.

———

On the Net: Montana Budget and Policy Center: http://www.montanabudget.org

A group of local officials and agency directors and representatives were direct in what they told an incoming legislator at a forum on Wednesday: Cuts in funding to state services would have a far-greater impact than the amount saved by the cuts.

"Everything you do at the state level is going to impact the local level," former Rep. John Musgrove. D-Havre, told Sen.-elect Rowlie Hutton, R-Havre, the sole member of the local legislators able to attend the forum. "Everything is inter-related. Everything is inter-related, and we have to look out for everybody."

The Montana Organizing Project is holding a series of forums across the state to discuss the impact the legislative session could have on social services.

Molly Moody, director of the project, said the purpose of the forums is to allow officials and agency representatives to talk about what services they provide and the importance of maintaining investments in services such as health care, education and transportation for people who are struggling with a recession.

She said at the close of the forum that the project is offering several ideas researched by the Montana Budget and Policy Center to raise additional revenue including working to collect unpaid taxes, working to close tax loopholes and use of targeted taxes such as on sugary drinks.

Barb Stiffarm, executive director of Opportunity Link Inc., said cuts in services would have a ripple effect that would affect many people.

For example, she said, the transit system implemented in north-central Montana impacts more than just the people using it — it also is helping businesses hire employees, who use the system to get to work, businesses sell goods and services to people who use the system to get to stores and appointments, and helps all by allowing people to get to school.

Cutting programs in virtually any area would have that kind of ripple effect, Stiffarm said.

Evelyn Havskjold, director of the Area X Agency on Aging and the Hill County Council on Aging, agreed. Cutting money to the Hill County agency would force cuts — whether it be in nutrition, help with medical issues, or keeping Hill County seniors active — that would lead to a greater cost with health problems.

"Any cuts now will be a cut that will have a ripple effect on our elderly population," she said.

Havre City Council member Gerry Veis said cuts to programs used by Havre would result in loss of services. Providing any service is straining the city budget, although the employees doing the work do an excellent job, he said.

"There is not any fat on the meat any more," Veis said.

Hill County commissioners Mike Wendland and Kathy Bessette said a major concern is a law passed by the 2001 Legislature that has the state collect local revenue, such as money raised through oil and gas exploration and production, and then sends it back to the local governments. Previously the local governments collected that revenue.

"Too often, we see taxes go to Helena, and we get a portion back," Wendland said. "That's a real issue to me."

Bessette said another problem with the system is a lack of transparency — it can be difficult or impossible, in some areas, for the local governments even to verify what was collected and what was due back to the local government.

Hutton said cutting programs is not what anyone wants, but balancing the budget will be difficult.

"Nobody I've talked to wants to go down to Helena and cut anything, but we do have some rough waters ahead of us," he said.

Hutton said people need to think outside the box.

"We ne

A group of local officials and agency directors and representatives were direct in what they told an incoming legislator at a forum on Wednesday: Cuts in funding to state services would have a far-greater impact than the amount saved by the cuts.

"Everything you do at the state level is going to impact the local level," former Rep. John Musgrove. D-Havre, told Sen.-elect Rowlie Hutton, R-Havre, the sole member of the local legislators able to attend the forum. "Everything is inter-related. Everything is inter-related, and we have to look out for everybody."

The Montana Organizing Project is holding a series of forums across the state to discuss the impact the legislative session could have on social services.

Molly Moody, director of the project, said the purpose of the forums is to allow officials and agency representatives to talk about what services they provide and the importance of maintaining investments in services such as health care, education and transportation for people who are struggling with a recession.

She said at the close of the forum that the project is offering several ideas researched by the Montana Budget and Policy Center to raise additional revenue including working to collect unpaid taxes, working to close tax loopholes and use of targeted taxes such as on sugary drinks.

Barb Stiffarm, executive director of Opportunity Link Inc., said cuts in services would have a ripple effect that would affect many people.

For example, she said, the transit system implemented in north-central Montana impacts more than just the people using it — it also is helping businesses hire employees, who use the system to get to work, businesses sell goods and services to people who use the system to get to stores and appointments, and helps all by allowing people to get to school.

Cutting programs in virtually any area would have that kind of ripple effect, Stiffarm said.

Evelyn Havskjold, director of the Area X Agency on Aging and the Hill County Council on Aging, agreed. Cutting money to the Hill County agency would force cuts — whether it be in nutrition, help with medical issues, or keeping Hill County seniors active — that would lead to a greater cost with health problems.

"Any cuts now will be a cut that will have a ripple effect on our elderly population," she said.

Havre City Council member Gerry Veis said cuts to programs used by Havre would result in loss of services. Providing any service is straining the city budget, although the employees doing the work do an excellent job, he said.

"There is not any fat on the meat any more," Veis said.

Hill County commissioners Mike Wendland and Kathy Bessette said a major concern is a law passed by the 2001 Legislature that has the state collect local revenue, such as money raised through oil and gas exploration and production, and then sends it back to the local governments. Previously the local governments collected that revenue.

"Too often, we see taxes go to Helena, and we get a portion back," Wendland said. "That's a real issue to me."

Bessette said another problem with the system is a lack of transparency — it can be difficult or impossible, in some areas, for the local governments even to verify what was collected and what was due back to the local government.

Hutton said cutting programs is not what anyone wants, but balancing the budget will be difficult.

"Nobody I've talked to wants to go down to Helena and cut anything, but we do have some rough waters ahead of us," he said.

Hutton said people need to think outside the box.

"We need to understand government is not our savior," Hutton said, adding that local groups and organizations can help provide services.

He used several actions of the church where he is head pastor, Fifth Avenue Christian Church, as an example. His church has helped provide day care to allow people to study for their GEDs at the District IV Human Resources Development Council, has provided meals for the YouthBuild Program at Montana State University-Northern, and provided space for training at the public schools.

"In these tough economic times … it starts with us on the local level," he said.

But Bessette warned Hutton that he and the other legislators "need to listen to the people in the trenches."

"We are telling you the story, and you need to listen," she said.

———

On the Net: Montana Budget and Policy Center: http://www.montanabudget.org

ed to understand government is not our savior," Hutton said, adding that local groups and organizations can help provide services.

He used several actions of the church where he is head pastor, Fifth Avenue Christian Church, as an example. His church has helped provide day care to allow people to study for their GEDs at the District IV Human Resources Development Council, has provided meals for the YouthBuild Program at Montana State University-Northern, and provided space for training at the public schools.

"In these tough economic times … it starts with us on the local level," he said.

But Bessette warned Hutton that he and the other legislators "need to listen to the people in the trenches."

"We are telling you the story, and you need to listen," she said.

———

On the Net: Montana Budget and Policy Center: http://www.montanabudget.org

 

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