What does the Appropriation Committee do?
State dollars come from taxpayers. Appropriations manages these taxpayer dollars between competing priorities, the big 3 being education (K12, CTE, College, etc.), medication (nursing homes, hospitals, public health, etc.) and public safety (prisons, courts, troopers, etc.).
My approach as chair: First, limit government to only necessary services. Next, define the most effective way to provide these services. And then demand and measure efficiency.
For example: Snowplows are necessary. To be effective, there must be enough snowplows in good working order. Efficiency requires well-trained drivers and structured dispatch. Technology can reduce the number of employees required in some areas, but services like snowplowing and public safety demand boots on the ground.
Bottomline: Appropriations limits and prioritizes taxpayer dollars in a conservative balanced budget toward providing critical services. As the demand for money always exceeds the supply, Appropriations says no to most new ongoing spending proposals.
I was asked why Republicans don’t vote the same on social issues.
Consider: Why did I vote against the bill proposing increased censorship authority in local school libraries while other Rs voted yes?
After 20 years as a legislator, my perception is that there are four primary reasons behind vote choices: There are votes of conscience, as the library bill vote was for me. I felt this bill empowered faceless state government with authority best left to locally elected school boards.
There are votes for constituents: I just introduced a bill to alleviate a problem with Class 5 teacher funding on behalf of our local superintendents group.
There are party/caucus priority votes: A current example being the six-bill tax cut and debt payoff packet recently brought together in Appropriations. I did not like all the bills, but the overall package was worth supporting.
And finally, there are votes made contrary to conscience due to pressure brought by the party, aggressive lobbying groups or powerful constituents. The promise of aggressive primaries including negative attack ads are common tools used to influence votes, a vote-our-way-or-else threat. For me these are “lemming” votes that have little redeeming merit, especially on impactful issues. I am rarely a good “lemming,” thus I endure the political attacks, albeit it is harder on my family than me.
The 1934 poem “The Man In The Mirror,” by Dale Wimbrow, has been my NorthStar:
When you get what you want in your struggle for pelf,
And the world makes you king for a day,
Then go to the mirror and look at yourself,
And see what that man has to say.
For it isn’t a man’s father, mother or wife,
Whose judgement upon him must pass,
The fellow whose verdict counts most in life,
Is the man staring back from the glass.
He’s the fellow to please, never mind all the rest,
For he’s with you clear to the end,
And you’ve passed your most dangerous, difficult test,
If the man in the glass is your friend.
You can fool the whole world down the pathway of years,
And get pats on the back as you pass,
But the final reward will be heartache and tears,
If you’ve cheated the man in the glass.
Civility and respect in politics and life begins by holding the man in the mirror responsible. Thank you for allowing me to be your representative.
Rep. Llew Jones, a Republican, serves the 18th District of the Montana House of Representatives.
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