Montana 2011 Legislature

Apr 1, 2011 7:50 PM by Marnee Banks (Helena)

Rally in Helena targets proposed MT budget cuts

An estimated 1,500 Montanans rallied on the Capitol steps in Helena on Friday to protest the Legislature's proposed budget cuts.

The rally was organized by MEA-MFT, the largest public employee union in the state, with the slogan, "No Fooling With Our Future."

Quint Nyman of the Montana Public Employees Association said, "We've got teachers, ranchers, faith leaders and my brothers and sisters from all the unions in Montana."

With over $100 million dollars cut from the Governor's proposed general fund budget, the Republican-led Legislature is moving forward with a plan reduce spending.

Kim Rickard, Montana AFL-CIO Vice President, said, "Stop saying you are here to create jobs when in fact you know you are destroying hundreds if not thousands of jobs with these budget cuts."

Republican lawmakers say it's time for Montanans to tighten their belts and crack down on wasteful spending, but the estimated 1,500 protesters who gathered in Helena on Friday disagree.

Stacey Anderson of Planned Parenthood of Montana said, "In the words of Helena's own Senator Christine Kaufmann, 'There is a poverty of spirit in the legislature these days.' A poverty of spirit that puts party politics before people, dollars before common sense and bankrupts the very spirit of what Montana is and who we are."

The Democrats say their only hope sits in the hands of Governor Brian Schweitzer.

When Schweitzer addressed the crowd, he wielded three separate branding irons with the word VETO on them.

He then asked them how Montana differs from Wisconsin, Ohio, and Indiana, which have recently experienced political clashes over union issues.

He said, "They don't have governors who recognize a partnership. They don't recognize how important it is for the people who do the work that matters to have a voice."

Schweitzer then displayed the three separate branding irons: large, medium, and small. He told the cheering crowd that the big iron was for "no-good, stinking bad bills," the medium one is for "smaller bills that do bad things," and the small iron is for pocket vetoes.

And for the hundreds of Montanans who are marching around the Capitol it will be just a matter of weeks before the outcome of the state budget is determined.

The Governor also shared a mock April Fool's Day version of a veto letter with some fellow Democrats; among the reasons included in the mock letter for vetoing a bill are "frivolous" and "solution in search of a problem" (click image above for larger view).

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