More than a thousand Montanans gathered in front of the state Capitol of Helena on Monday to protest budgetary plans to cut health, educational, environmental and labor programs while pushing for corporate tax cuts.
Republicans in Montana are pushing legislation to gut the Montana Environmental Policy Act, reduce workers’ compensation insurance, close the Montana Veterans Home in Columbia Falls, prevent the establishment of a state health insurance exchange, slash a number of health programs, and cut funding to higher education in the state.
Meanwhile, Republican lawmakers have said they will eliminate the state’s business equipment tax. Eliminating the tax would amount to a loss of $90 million to local governments statewide, The Daily Inter Lake reported.
The rally followed similar demonstrations that occurred in Wisconsin and Ohio, where public employees have organized large protests against efforts to curb their collective bargaining rights.
Conservationists, sportsmen, firefighters, teachers, correctional officers and others at the rally chanted slogans such as “hunting, fishing, recreation — makes Montana the best in the nation,” The Great Falls Tribune reported.
One piece of legislation, introduced by Republican State Rep. Joe Read, would declare global warming a “natural occurrence” that it is “beneficial to the welfare and business climate of Montana.”
“They are inside introducing unconstitutional laws that make the state I love a laughingstock of the country,” Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau told the Tribune. “They are inside making public employees, who do the work that matters every day, a punching bag.”
“They are inside slashing and burning, claiming climate change is good, nullifying the Endangered Species Act and attempting to change our state’s constitutional mandate for a clean and healthful environment,” she added.
Republicans in Montana claim the cuts to health, environmental, and labor programs are necessary to encourage economic growth in the state.
“By obstructing the responsible development of these abundant natural resources, Democrats and environmentalists are killing opportunities for good-paying jobs in Montana,” House GOP spokesman Chris Shipp said.
The growing labor unrest in the United States has exposed the Republican Party’s plan to essentially divide-and-conquer the lower classes in America, according to Robert Reich, Bill Clinton’s secretary of labor.
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