Further Cuts to Health & Human Services or Increase University System Funding by $9M?

by jhwygirl

This is a high-alert action needed now post, people.

Now, I got nothing against funding education – K-12, higher education – I’m all for it. But when it comes to limited funds and a shitty economy, I’m going to say that maintaining the services for those that need it the most – those that can’t survive without those services is more important than increasing funding for Montana’s university systems.

Tomorrow – Monday – House Appropriations will be taking up discussion on HB645 in an effort to garner enough votes for a deal which has apparently been struck between Democratic Representatives John Sesso (of Butte) and Dan Villa (of Anaconda) and Republican Representatives Walter McNutt (of Sydney) and William Glaser (of Huntley).

Sesso is chair of House Appropriations – McNutt is vice-chair.

A deal that would increase university funding by $9 million and further underfund an already cut and somewhat underfunded Medicaid and social services system.

And think about this – once that extra $9 million goes out and the cuts are made to social services, more pressure will rise for the Republican’s continued attack on not funding the Healthy Montana Kids Initiative.

Beyond that, with a shitty economy the state’s local city and county health departments along with non-profits pick up the slack of an already somewhat underfunded Public Health & Human Services department. These agencies are already suffering because of decreasing donations from the private sector and decreasing tax revenues, resulting in budget cuts at local levels too. How – HOW? – will the most needy of our society – the aging, the disabled, the poor – get the access they need to the most basic of services?

Governor Schweitzer has pushed for a tuition freeze, promising the Board of Regents $10 million of stimulus money providing the freeze is put in place. The Board of Regents, on the other hand, continues to push for an additional $8.2 million, saying that it can’t freeze tuition and make due with its $1 billion biennium budget.

The Governor has proposed across-the-board cuts for all departments. The university system’s cut, proposed by the Governor, is $5.6 million. Now, maybe my math is wrong – but a $5.6 million biennium cut to a $1 billion biennium budget is barely over 1/2 of 1%.

Are you kidding me?!

Schweitzer had strong words for Board of Regents, university administrators and student leaders who met with him on Friday in Helena.

Meanwhile, university student leaders from UM and MSU are apparently drinking the kool-aid too – we want what we want and we just want it so give it to us.

And UM President George Dennison has apparently taken a liking to socialism, saying that “it’s unfair to compare the university system to the private sector.”

Really? That .56% cut in your budget hurt that much?

I’m ashamed of this. I’m ashamed that there are Democrats out there kow-towing to the Board of Regents at the expense of social services. Do they realize they are feeding the drumbeat calling to eliminate funding for Healthy Montana Kids?

Everybody – Everybody – is making cuts. The Board of Regents, I dare say, should just have to make due with $10 million in stimulus money – strings attached – and a tuition freeze and its .56% cut to its budget. Deal.

Time for emailing, folks…that House Appropriations meeting is scheduled for 8 a.m. tomorrow (Monday). Here is a list of the committee members, and following is their email addresses which you can just cut-and-paste.

Jon Sesso (D) (Chair)
Cynthia Hiner (D) (Vice Chair)
Walter McNutt (R) (Vice Chair)
Duane Ankney (R)
Dennis Getz (D)
William Glaser (R)
Ray Hawk (R)
Teresa Henry (D)
Roy Hollandsworth (R)
Galen Hollenbaugh (D)
Llew Jones (R)
Dave Kasten (R)
Bill McChesney (D)
Robert Mehlhoff (D)
Penny Morgan (R)
Bill Nooney (R)
Carolyn Pease-Lopez (D)
Don Roberts (R)
Cheryl Steenson (D)
Dan Villa (D)

jonsesso@yahoo.com; walt@midrivers.com; matthiner@hotmail.com; goodwind.duane@gmail.com; ddgetz@peoplepc.com; glaser@mcn.net; rhawk@bresnan.net; tkh@tkhenry.com; hgrain@3riversdbs.net; lcjones@3rivers.net; macwilly66@msn.com; rmehlhoff@yahoo.com; pjm511@hotmail.com; bnooney@inv-ent.com; casteenson@gmail.com; danvillaformontana@hotmail.com

Rep. Dave Kasten, Rep. Carolyn Pease-Lopez, and Rep. Don Roberts have no email listed – you can reach them by calling the Session Information Desk at 406-444-4800 to leaving a message for them.

You can also call that number and leave a message for the entire House Appropriations committee. Your message will be delivered directly to the legislators. The TTY (Telephone Device for the Deaf) number is 406-444-4462.

Tell these legislators that the university system needs to live withing the budgetary means of the State and this poor economy – that a .56% cut to their budget, with $10 in stimulus funding, and a tuition freeze is something they need to learn to live with – and that cost-savings through attrition and – dare I suggest – some cuts to things like the well-funding athletics departments – could and should be implemented for the next 2 years.

  1. The_Boneshackler

    Perhaps it is time to cut the sports program loose. Let our Corporate Overlords sponsor it. The PUBLIC University system should be utilized to educate and enlighten citizens, not to groom potential corporate sports ‘heroes’ for the national stage. I am often embarrassed by the precedence sports has over academics at the UM. The football coach makes over $100,000.00 per year, yet we need to limit the salaries of the professors that actually engage in education (Rob Natelson excluded, of course). Remember the debacle a couple of years ago where the high flying football team partied themselves into a million dollar hole that the rest of the students had to cover via increased fees? Maybe it is time for the university system to reevaluate its priorities.

  2. Though I’m certain there is some creative accounting involved, both the Grizzly and Bobcat football teams support themselves.

  3. Somehow I doubt it, Wulgar. Last I checked they don’t pay rent for any of their facilities or offices.

    And, without donations from alumni, the football stadiums, the football travel, the football scholarships and the football coaches could not be considered self-supporting. How many of those donations would continue to flow to the universities without a football team is an interesting question.

    Justifiable? Yes, although j-girl’s post questions whether it would be justifiable today. A worthwhile investment? Yes, probably. Something to enjoy and be proud of? Yes, absolutely. But, self-supporting? I don’t think so.

    • JC

      Well, if we’re going to draw out the sports analysis, then you have to figure out how much of an economic boon the games are to the towns when people travel here to watch games. Lots of food, drink, and rooms consumed. Stadium construction.

      Lots of jobs for concessions, maintenance, management, etc. I hate to say it, but my kid sold a lot of hot dogs and burgers at Griz games, and made some spending money as a high schooler. Um, and some local business has to make all those signs adorning the stadium, and keep the Hall of Fame modern and up-to-date.

      In other words, a successful football team spins off a lot of economic activity and development in the community. How much of that economic value is a direct result of public investment is a worthwhile question to ask. But one should look at the whole picture before coming to conclusions.

    • JC

      Oh, and I forgot to add that I agree totally with jhwygirl. Much easier for the U system to cut back slightly, than for social services to take a hit. Of course, I think that is a false choice, but one that politicians like to put forth.

  4. Oyster Pirate

    Several years ago, ESPN The Mag did an excellent article about college athletics. The gist of it was, even the big time D-1 programs don’t make money. Even with creative accounting (such as not counting athlete councelling or tutoring against Athletic Dep’t budgets dispite the Ath. Dep’t being the single largest user of these services on many campuses) college athletics are taxpayer-subsidized.
    When the U of M had there little budget scandel a few years ago, out of a $10 million budget, something like $3 mil of that was from the general fund, i.e. not from ticket sales, merchandise, etc. That means you, taxpayer!

  5. the administrative hierarchy of the university system is as systematically and permanently addicted to wasting bushels of money on themselves as the wall street executives (on a much smaller scale of course) but relative to the pay of people who actually make the universities work, the way they treat themselves and their friends is obscene. one peek behind the scenes by someone honest would reveal ways to save many millions of dollars, but it will never be done. the safety hatches are built in and the ones in control simply point fingers at the little people and tell them to spend less.

    one of the things i worried about with schweitzer telling the u-system bosses to tighten their belts is that it would only effect the poor people trying to hold things together down in the engine room. the fancy parties and the lavish obscene spending will still be carried on up in the wheel house.

    tell the service workers to do more with less and pour millions into the bloated administrative budgets of dennison and friends. that is where the waste is.

  6. as an addendum, i would like to see a true audit (not executive leaning) which takes a look at the universities. i think there would be enough fat to cut in administrative offices to more than keep the universities healthy. in fact, i am pretty sure some common sense approach would even find some savings to give to Health and Human Services.

    god knows HHS could use it to help the service workers many of whom must use many of the services of our state sponsored and non profits just to make it to the end of each month due to inadequate salaries. these are the people who have really suffered under the iron fist of these overpaid princes.

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