The Billings Outpost

End gas, oil tax holiday

When it comes to helping Montana communities pay for the impacts caused by oil and gas development, the Legislature has ignored the obvious solution for years.

Taxes on mineral extraction are intended in large part to help deal with the impacts caused by such development. But the Legislature has refused to tax the majority of new oil and gas extraction in Montana.

The tax-free holiday on oil and gas production was enacted in the 1990s. The Legislature at that time made that foolish decision not to tax oil companies on most of their production, Of course, lobbyists for the oil and gas industry had a hand in the 18-month oil and gas tax holiday. After 18 months the production from an oil and gas well naturally is dramatically less than when the well started producing.

And with that decision to let the oil and gas companies avoid paying their fair share the Legislature also made the decision not to pay for impacts to Montana communities. Because of that, we are now left arguing over how to come up with the money to address those impacts.

Legislators, the solution is simple and clear. End the oil and gas tax holiday. Support SB 374. As a taxpayer and a Montanan wanting to invest in Montana, not the oil and gas company fat cats, I thank you.

David Lehnherr

Red Lodge

Last Updated on Thursday, 19 March 2015 12:09

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New technology needed

It is widely recognized that we have a child safety crisis in the state of Montana. Since 2008, there has been a 60 percent increase in child abuse and neglect cases. Drugs, untreated mental illness, and domestic violence have all been cited as contributors to this alarming trend.

Montana will never be able to address these tragedies, however, without ensuring that child welfare caseworkers have the tools necessary to do their difficult jobs. These hardworking men and women are charged with stepping in to protect the 2,400 vulnerable children currently served by the Montana child welfare system and must have access to modern technology tools that will help them make better, more evidence-based decisions.

Right now, there is a real opportunity to protect children in danger, because members of the Legislature and the governor are already taking a serious look at our child welfare system. One idea that should be pursued is putting modern technologies in the hands of caseworkers.

The systems caseworkers use now do not match the technology most of us are using in our business and social lives. The screens caseworkers interact with are daunting and outdated, and it is difficult for them to navigate the system to find information or enter new information.

These systems are not data-driven. Data provided can be months old and deprive caseworkers and administrators of the ability to spot trends and patterns that would enable them to make informed decisions about the welfare of the children they serve – and thereby to help those children succeed in life.

The state Department of Public Health and Human Services has made positive strides in retaining caseworkers, but we shouldn’t stop there. How long can we expect someone to stay in a difficult job if we’re not willing to make the work experience better? In business, investments are made in technology to increase efficiency, productivity and competiveness. Why shouldn’t caseworkers be similarly supported?

The lack of effective technology has profound consequences for agencies and the families they serve. Caseworkers spend too much time on paperwork rather than with families. And, there’s little doubt that frustration with dated technology is partly to blame for the turnover rates of Montana’s caseworkers.

The good news is that modern technology products can help address these challenges – and that DPHHS wants to see that happen, too. New web-based case management tools combine social networking design with data-driven analytics.  Staff at DPHHS estimate these new products could reduce administration time by 20 percent, allowing caseworkers to spend more time with children.

The systems are easy for caseworkers to learn and use, and can be updated quickly and easily. Additionally, these case management tools run on all mobile devices, thereby enabling caseworkers to work anywhere. The result is an enhanced work experience and, ultimately, better results for vulnerable children.

The need for this type of technology is clear. It is critical that we look for opportunities to improve the technology our state uses to protect vulnerable children. Montana’s foster kids are in dire need of assistance. Updated technology for caseworkers is the logical first step toward helping them.

This should be a cause we can all get behind.

Sen. Roger Webb



Last Updated on Friday, 06 March 2015 13:15

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Half-baked idea

House Bill 450, a law currently being debated in the Montana Legislature, would allow hunters the use of suppressors (i.e. silencers) on their rifles while hunting mountain lions and wolves. The rationale for this proposal is so that the sound of the guns won’t hurt the hunters’ little ears! 

Gimme a break! If hunters are really that concerned about the sound of their guns hurting their ears, then use ear protectors just as they do when they are on the gun range. If they find that unacceptable, then I would suggest something else - stay home! 

One can’t help but notice that this proposal makes no reference to using silencers for hunting other big game. Make no mistake about it, the real reason for this cockeyed proposal is to allow hunters of wolves and mountain lions a second shot in the event that they missed with the first one. Do the proponents of this proposal really think that Montanans are that naive?

I am continually amazed at the stupid, half-baked ideas that some of our state legislators put forward for debate during the state legislative sessions … and all at the expense of Montana taxpayers!

Larry Robson



Last Updated on Thursday, 05 March 2015 13:14

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Thanks to Brewer

A big shout out to the Brewer Dental Clinic for their annual Dentistry from the Heart campaign. I understand 340 patients were served in a single day. Bringing pain relief and dental corrections to some of our most hard to serve residents speaks volumes about the love and compassion the Brewer family of providers have for their patients and this community. Thank you for making this a better place to live.

James E. Reno

County commissioner

Last Updated on Thursday, 05 March 2015 13:13

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Molnar gets it right

Please thank Brad Molnar for his insightful article “Double standard exists for Clinton, Williams” (Outpost, Feb. 12). Another Hillary fable would interest me, when she turned $100 into $10,000 in cattle futures or some such. This surfaced around 1991 or 1993 when old 42 was running. I’m surprised your article didn’t get edited by the editor.

This letter is late considering I didn’t get the Feb. 12 issue in my mailbox until Feb. 18.

Leona Johnston



Last Updated on Thursday, 26 February 2015 16:42

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Don’t close primary

Gaming the system is the focus of the party insiders, not popular policy. My Party is suing in federal court to overturn a statue passed by the Legislature providing for an “open” primary.

I am opposed to a closed primary and the Montana Republican Party joining this federal lawsuit asking the court to order Montana to close the Republican primary, i.e., only Republicans can vote in the party primary.

A closed primary bill has failed many times in the Legislature. The plaintiffs want a federal judge, appointed for life, to override the elected Legislature – not very Republican.

These party insiders are confirming that they do not want a party about the people. They want a party about the party. That is a recipe for failure. Polls show Montana is about 37 percent Republican; the Legislature is 58.6 percent. Why not stick with a winner?

These insiders are the ones who brought us the ill-conceived “Republican Presidential Caucus” in 2008. The winner of the caucus was to receive our delegates to the National Convention, regardless of the winner of the primary. This alienated voters and was rescinded.

Closing primaries will not prove wise now. It tells the voters of Montana that we care more for our party than the people, and trust a federal court more than our Legislature.

The court recently denied a partial summary judgment motion by the plaintiffs and asked how the plaintiffs even knew who was a Republican? Montanans do not register by party.

However, it matters not because we have same day registration and a person can change their registration before every primary. Montana is made up of independent people who do not like to be labeled. If we deny them the chance to vote in our primary they will pay us back.

Jim Shockley


Last Updated on Thursday, 26 February 2015 16:41

Hits: 315

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