Guest Commentary

Rep. Ricci concerned about tough budget dilemma
Rep. Vince Ricci

I have been absent for a couple of weeks, so it is time to check in again. The Legislature is hearing many bills in committee with some getting out to be heard on the House floor.
One bill in particular that passed the House was HB 334. HB 334 directs that Medicaid appropriations be used only for Medicaid expenditures. The Health and Humans Services committee (which I serve on) heard this bill. There were many proponents—both citizens and groups representing Medicaid providers. It seems that some Medicaid money was used to make up the shortfall in highway funding. There was a bill forthcoming to make up the shortfall so the state didn’t lose the federal grant. But the administration decided to use the Medicaid money. Meanwhile we have a waiting list of people that need Medicaid services. We need to encourage the governor to sign this bill and not veto it.
The budget is the biggest challenge facing the Legislature this session. Revenues are down and spending continues to rise. That is the dilemma, no one wants to cut spending to schools, child protective services, Medicare; we all want to improve our roads, bridges. I have been told that I want to starve government, which is not true. It is hard to starve something when the more you give it, the more it wants. But I do believe that we need to make our government spending accountable. When we personally find ourselves short on our budget we have to prioritize, and make cuts to match our spending. But sometimes the government is willing to find ways to increase income i.e. raise taxes, find new taxes or fees. I don’t think that is fair to citizens.
Don’t forget you can always email with your concerns, and if you ever find yourself in Helena please let me know ahead of time. I would love to meet with you.

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