- The Montana Example
Montana is making national headlines lately, and for a very proud reason: We are one of only two states in America operating without a deficit.The state of Montana has balanced its checkbook five years in a row with no tax increases, no cuts to education or other essential services, and with $327 million in cold hard cash left in the bank. The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, FOXNews, MSNBC and CNN (among others) have all taken notice, describing our work as a national example of fiscal discipline.When people from out-of-state ask me why Montana is doing so well, I say it’s because we’re running government like a ranch. They think I’m joking when I say that. I’m not. Since ranching is what I knew before running for governor, my administration uses the same basic common-sense principles that a rancher or farmer (or for that matter, any small businessman or household) must use in order to survive. It works surprisingly well.The rules are:1. Keep some grain in the bin. A few years ago when the economy was strong, like other states we ran a surplus. We sent part of that money back to Montanans in the form of a $400 tax rebate – the largest tax relief in Montana history – and then put the remaining $250 million in the bank. That money has allowed us to get through the recession in solid shape. Contrast this to the behavior of 48 other states, not to mention the federal government. When they had extra cash, they found ways to spend it. Now they are raising taxes or borrowing money – or both.2. Live within your means. When the recession hit, I told my cabinet members to cut their agency budgets by 5 percent. Families and businesses are cutting back and the state of Montana should be no different. But we didn’t cut essential services. We looked for ways to save money by simply doing things with greater efficiency – and it worked. As a result, those agencies are now providing the same essential services to Montana citizens – whether fighting forest fires, printing hunting licenses, paving roads or imprisoning criminals – for 5 percent less than before.3. Challenge every expense, and do more with less. Where did we find these savings? It wasn’t easy. We spent five years coming up with ideas. We reviewed every single item that the state spends money on, and if we were buying something for 5 cents we tried to get it for 4. In all, we trimmed about $80 million in costs. We replaced employee travel with video-conferencing. We demanded rent reductions from our commercial landlords, or in some cases simply moved to cheaper premises. We turned down thermostats, auctioned off state vehicles, and stopped printing unnecessary items that can be viewed online, like the state phonebook or the Revenue Department tax booklet. We even had a contest in which we solicited ideas from the public, with the winner receiving a shiny new coin made of Montana palladium.And even though the state workforce was already very spare (this decade, Montana’s economy has grown 65 percent while the number of state workers has risen only 2.3 percent), we reduced it further by leaving jobs vacant if someone retired. We also froze state pay, and to set an example the lieutenant governor and I cut our salaries by $17,000.4. Don’t waste your time with people who say one thing, and do another. If someone knocks on your door this fall looking for your vote and taking credit for our solid financial shape, make sure you do your research. In the last several legislative sessions I’ve vetoed about $40 million in spending bills. And back when we set aside the surplus to prepare for an uncertain future (that safety cushion which has kept us afloat while almost all other states are drowning in red ink), Republican legislators loudly criticized me for it.Now, even their own party leaders in Washington, including Newt Gingrich and Denny Rehberg, are praising us for what we did.5. Don’t rest on your laurels. Just because we have one of the most efficient state governments in America, don’t think we aren’t still working every day to cut costs. In fact, I want your help. Go to www.governor.mt.gov and give me your own savings ideas, so that Montana can keep showing the rest of the country how it’s done.Brian Schweitzer is the Democratic governor of Montana. Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup. Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox. Email
- 2 students killed in California school shooting, 16-year-old suspect in hospital: Live updates
ChiccoDodiFC/iStock(LOS ANGELES) — A 14-year-old boy and 16-year-old girl are dead and three other students are injured after a classmate opened fire at a high school in Southern California Thursday morning, officials said.The 16-year-old male suspect was taken into custody and is in the hospital in “grave condition” from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, authorities said.Detectives reviewed video from the scene which showed the gunman in the quad of Saugus High School in Santa Clarita when he took a gun from his backpack, shot five people and then shot himself in the head, authorities said. The early morning school shooting was on the suspect’s birthday, authorities said.The surviving victims are a 14-year-old girl, a 15-year-old girl and a 14-year-old boy.Terrified students barricaded in classrooms before they fled the campus to search for their concerned parents, who had gathered in the streets.“I just started running,” sophomore Brooklyn Moreno said. “There was girls falling in front of me and I tried to help them up, then just kept running ’cause I didn’t want to get hurt, either.”The weapon, a .45 caliber semiautomatic pistol, was recovered with no more bullets left, authorities said.The suspect’s girlfriend and his mother are speaking with detectives, authorities said.The shooting was reported at 7:38 a.m. local time during what’s called “Zero Period,” roughly an hour before the school day officially begins at 8 a.m. and is often used for extracurricular classes, police said.When 17-year-old Hayden Trowbridge heard the gunshots, his classmates pushed their desks to the door as a barricade, he told ABC News.The teen said he grabbed his metal water bottle to use as a weapon as they all hid under their desks, crying and holding each other.Trowbridge said he had also practiced putting a book in front of his chest to protect against a fatal shot, but he didn’t have anything big enough nearby.Choir teacher Kaitlin Holt said one girl, shot in the hip and shoulder, was rushed into her classroom by other students. Holt told ABC News she gave the girl first aid and called 911.Moreno said she was in the school’s quad when she heard what she thought was a balloon popping. She took off running.“I never thought this would happen at my school,” Moreno told ABC Los Angeles station KABC. “I’m still kinda in shock right now. I’ve been shaking and crying a lot — I’m an emotional wreck.”As the search for the suspect was unfolding, officials urge those who live in the area to lock their doors and other schools were placed on lockdown.Misty Wolf, a Saugus High School graduate whose 16-year-old daughter goes to a nearby school, said they were just arriving when her daughter’s school was placed on lockdown.“We were all getting there and parents heard shots — or what we thought were shots,” Wolf told ABC News. “The nice guy who waves us in the lot every morning started shouting at the kids walking to get out of the way get up the hill. We were all trying to get out. People were confused.”“Having my kid, who is already dealing with things in life, being scared because I told her to duck down because they don’t know where the shooter is — is hard,” Wolf said. “There was another [school lockdown] a few years ago and she never wanted to leave her classroom after it. I’m worried that this will make her not want to be at school because she doesn’t feel safe.”Moments before news of the shooting broke, Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., was on the Senate floor calling on his colleagues to bring up a universal background checks bill that was passed by the House earlier this year.He asked for unanimous consent to pass the legislation dubbed the “Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019” that would establish new background check requirements for firearm transfers between private parties. The House approved of the measure in February in a 240-90 vote.His fellow Democratic Connecticut senator, Richard Blumenthal, was in the middle of his remarks on gun violence when he was handed a note informing him of the reported shooting.In August, the William S. Hart Union High School District, which includes Saugus High School, voted to extend a contract for school safety for another year for $1.05 million, local newspaper, The Santa Clarita Valley Signal, reported. Schools in the district began holding lockdown drills several years ago, a public information officer for the school district told Santa Clarita radio station KHTS in 2018 after the Parkland shooting in Florida.Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.