What’s Governor Schweitzer Got Against Parks?

by jhwygirl

…or was it more a chance to cater to the Faux News crowd?

Now cities and towns across the state are now wondering about some of their stimulus funds – stimulus funds granted via HB645…stimulus funds approved by the state legislature and signed into law by Governor Brian Schweitzer himself….a governor who vetoed and partially vetoed a number of bills but didn’t see fit to do anything about those park and recreational facility funding when he signed HB645 into law…and finally – stimulus funds appropriated through HB645, a bill which Governor Schweitzer line-item vetoed for certain objects as having been unconstitutional.

Let’s also take the time to point out that under section 47 of HB645, MCA 90-5-101 was amended to include recreational facilities as projects eligible for stimulus funds. Family service projects were included too, as were electric energy generation facilities (Smurfit-Stone, anyone?), and “any facilities that are used or considered necessary to create or produce any intangible item, as defined in section 197(d)(1)(C)(iii) of the Internal Revenue Code, 26 U.S.C. 197(d)(1)(C)(iii), including any patent, copyright, formula, process, design, pattern, knowledge, format, or other similar intangible item.”

That last one there is pretty broad, no?

Now let’s say here first – the Governor has been looking to cut and save money from the budget. That’s a good thing. He recently denied over a half-million bucks in funding to Swank Enterprises – a late insert into the state’s budget bill by Senator Barkus – the Barkus that sailed that boat up on the rocks on Flathead Lake, severely injuring himself and the rest of his drinking buddies, one of which was our own congressperson Representative Dennis Rehberg – based on political tomfoolery, if not the clever use of the word “may” instead of “shall.”

Stuff like that is great.

Now that we’ve gotten the pleasantries out of the way…

What towns are wondering about whether they’ll be next in the Governor’s scrutiny of legislatively-approved, signed-into-law-by-him stimulus money? Why, the Governor’s own current hometown of Helena should be one of them. They got a nice chunk of cash – nearly $500,000 – that will, in part, build an entirely new park. It’ll also get them a hand-painted mural and the installation of sound reflective tile. Drummond? Dutton? Fairview? The list goes on: Livingston, Ryegate Superior? All improvements to the local park infrastructure. Terry? Twin Bridges? Bainville?

Will these towns be losing their pathways? The park benches and shelters? What about those bathroom upgrades? Sprinkler systems?

How about that county ground fairground grandstand replacement in Prairie?

What’s good for the goose, is good for the gander. Why should Prairie get a new grandstand and Bozeman be begrudged the repair of its tennis courts?

Because if Schweitzer’s gonna ignore Section 57 of HB645, what’s next? There’s a whole bunch of stuff in there that was approved by both houses of the legislature. And signed into law by you.

Is it all up for game? Where does that line stop? Or is there a line at all?

In other words: This is not a monarchy, Brian. As Bozeman City Commissioner (and soon-to-be-Mayor) Jeff Krauss points out, “It’s not frivolous. When we introduced this in the fall, a bunch of citizens came in to say how much they supported repairing our recreational facilities. It’s all about getting these kids and prying them away from the video game controls. We’re having a big crisis over health care in this country. Every time you can get a kid away from the electronic entertainment and outside recreating, that’s a good thing.”

As for Faux News? Maybe they should look at what other states are spending their stimulus money on. I highly doubt Montana is unique…and not only that – maybe they should look at our laws and see who, ultimately, got the final say on what the stimulus funds would be used.

When it comes down to it, parks are infrastructure to any community. Infrastructure just like roads and street signs and police stations.

Infrastructure requires upkeep due not only to wear-and-tear, but population growth . Ignore that upkeep and it costs more in the long run because….infrastructure doesn’t really go away.

These cities and towns could say that they are using their stimulus funds for road repair and instead redirect the money that their own budget would have paid for in road repair and place it in the local ball fields that have been neglected for the last decade…..OR they could be more honest, keep their baseline budget intact for streets and roads and the bare minimum basics that they themselves have been scraping by on for the last 2 years while businesses are closing and houses are being foreclosed upon and building permits are down, and ask for stimulus funds to employ local people to keep the local infrastructure maintained.

Frankly, I’m a fan of the latter,but I’m not so sure about other state democrats – certain state democrats, trying to negotiate our own budget bill this last session (for example, folks) agreed to defund the Department of Public Health and Human Services and use supplemental stimulus funding to supplement DPHHS for the next two years. This was, at the time, called a “negotiating tactic,” meant to conceded ‘temporarily’ some funding of DPHHS (because you know how that GOP loves social services) in order to get that budget passed.

Well – tell me what is going to happen next legislative session? DPHHS and other socially conscience elected officials are going to be scrapping and scraping to bring DPHHS up to 2009 levels, yet along make adjustments that are normal for increases in population or service needs.

This isn’t about tennis courts. It’s about local governments being able to govern their local governments. It’s about laws and legislative powers of appropriation. It’s about separate branches of government. It’s about democracy, not a monarchy.

Give Bozeman its tennis courts. Give all the other towns their money. And bring us some sustainable, high-paying, low-impact technology and health industry jobs.

  1. Anon

    Well – tell me what is going to happen next legislative session? DPHHS and other socially conscience elected officials are going to be scrapping and scraping to bring DPHHS up to 2009 levels, yet along make adjustments that are normal for increases in population or service needs.

    It may be difficult to get DPHHS funding levels back to 2009. Revenues are currently off by about 24% and Terry Johnson has made the statement that he doesn’t see revenues returning to the 2008 levels until 2015. The 2011 Legislature is going to have a very tough time creating a balanced budget.

    I believe the Legislature played the same game you mention about using stimulus funds for education also. It could be an interesting session in ’11 if revenues continue to run at about the 2004/5 level. Brian’s over 40% budget increases since then may have to be backed out.

  1. 1 Bozeman Responds to Governor’s Call to Cut Recreation Stimulus Funds « 4&20 blackbirds

    […] Friday I received an email from Bozeman’s current Deputy Mayor Jeff Krauss regarding a recent post here concerning Governor Schweitzer’s call to cut some stimulus funds from the City of Bozeman. […]

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    […] said he was dangerous – “This is not a monarchy,” were my words back in December when he was picking on leaning-conservative town Bozeman. Those loving the […]

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