I am leading legislation to extend Montana's Unlock Public Lands Program. This program can provide access to 1.5M acres of public land for public use. Supporters: Farm Bureau, Stockgrower's Association, Wildlife Federation, Farmers Union, United Property Owners, State Auditor, Trout Unlimited and Montana Department of Fish Wildlife and Parks, and Montana Sportsmen and Sportswomen Alliance.
Full Text of Testimony:
My name is Jon Knokey and I have the good fortune to represent Bozeman.
Like each of you I believe that Montana is God’s chosen property. But she is an enigma. Each of us are left in awe by the rivers cut from the great flood, mountains that are steps to the celestial, a sky that slips the surly bonds of the horizon, prairies that are fathomless, and woods that are dark and deep.
We use this land to learn the four-count rhythm with a fly road, teach our daughter’s how to shoot a .30-06 and to give our grandfather’s one last time to instill a life lesson.
House Bill 217, which passed the House 95-3, is smart government legislation. It changes the requirement for replacing license plates from every 5 years to every 10 years. License plates are strong and durable and can easily last 10 years. The 5 year replacement cycle was arbitrary, according to the Motor Vehicle Division, who endorsed the bill. Now Montanans won’t have to take off perfectly good license plates, spend the time and money to get new ones, and then put on new plates. The cherry on top is that this will save the taxpayer almost $3 million in fees over the next two years.
Sounds win-win, right? The Governor’s budget team does not think so. Evidently money is so tight, they need the $294,000 in revenue from license plate fees to make ends meet. They oppose this bill.
This is worth repeating because it’s an outrageous example of the state that our budget is in and the lengths the Governor’s office will go to save face. This wildly po...
The state of Montana has a dire budget situation that requires leadership to repair. In 2013 the state of Montana had an ending fund balance of about $537 million and it will be down to $79 million this year. The ending fund balance is our monetary cushion for our state should it be necessary between legislative sessions every two years. For reference, we need about $200 million in the ending fund to be structurally solvent, so this balance is very troublesome. Instead of leadership on tough cuts to replenish the ending fund, we are getting a budget shell game from the Governor.
In a shell game the dealer puts a ball under three cups and moves them around, trying to dupe the spectator into guessing which cup has the ball when the slight-of-hand is finished. Budget shell games can take on many forms: one-time transfers, fund switches, off-balance sheet fluctuations, etc.
Budget tricks are boring and hard to understand. Newspaper journalists have a hard time explaining them i...
Serving on the House Appropriation Committee for the Montana Legislature has been the single most eye-opening activity of my career. Simply put, I came from the private sector and if someone ran a business or non-profit like we ran our government, they’d be finished. The latest move on infrastructure exemplifies this.
Here is the backstory. Late last year the Montana Department of Transportation special fund was so depleted that they postponed thirty large infrastructure jobs. Contractors and construction workers – people who had previously been told that projects were underway - were now told that these jobs may never start. Hundreds of real people lost the opportunity for real jobs.
The legislature, which convened on January 2nd, decided to move quickly. First, we asked executive agencies if they needed any emergency funds to continue operations until the end of Fiscal Year 2017 (which ends this summer). For instance, Elsie Arntzen, Superintendent of Schools, highlighted that student e...
This morning the House Appropriations sub-committee voted 4-3 in favor of reducing the budget for the Department of Health and Human Services over the next biennium. This is known as the starting point motion. The reduction proposed for this budget was just 1.9% lower than the funds allocated in 2017 (see table).
State General Fund State Special Federal Total
2017 Actual Base $ 528,179,615 $ 169,446,809 $ 1,766,874,969 $ 2,464,501,393...
The great part of being a political outsider is you get the opportunity to look at existing government budgets and legislation with a fresh view. As a freshman member of the 65th Montana legislature, serving on the House Appropriations committee, I am examining the budget shortfall, which is the hot topic in Helena. Citizens from all over the state are rightfully wary.
So how did we get into this situation?
First, we have to remember that the legislative branch meets every two years and passes a balanced state budget. It is our single constitutional duty. Once the budget is passed it is up to the executive branch to execute on that budget.
The analogy here is that in 2015 the legislative branch built the car and then gave the keys to governor’s office to drive it. Now that we’ve returned to Helena for the 2017 session, it is clear that the car was wrecked.
Here’s how it happened. The Legislative branch gives the governor a cushion, called the Ending Fund, which is used to m...
When I decided to run for the Montana Legislature, representing the heart of Bozeman, I was told no Republican could win the seat. This encouraged me, not because I’m a Republican, but because I know my neighbors. Here in Bozeman we are not partisan. Yes, we have our opinions, but really, at the end of the day, we just want to grow the Montana economy, give our kids a great education, enjoy the mountains and rivers, and live in the last best place.
After eight months of campaigning and wonderful support from the community we won by 56 votes – out of 6,242 votes cast. The best part of being in a close race is that I got to meet thousands of new friends. I knocked on nearly 4,000 doors and attended dozens of community events, and, in the process, asked one simple question to everyone I met: “How can your government best represent you?”
Five things were brought up at nearly every door: lower the cost of living, increase opportunity for wage growth, preserve and promote a...