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Public workers, students rally against cuts

2011-02-22T00:12:00Z Public workers, students rally against cutsBy MIKE DENNISON IR State Bureau Helena Independent Record
February 22, 2011 12:12 am  • 

Several hundred public employees and college students rallied on the steps of the state Capitol Monday, decrying proposed budget cuts to education and state services as harmful and unnecessary.

The workers, who lined the Capitol’s snowy front steps in temperatures in the 20s, also called out their support for public workers in Wisconsin, which has gained national attention as Republicans there try to strip public-sector unions of their collective bargaining rights.

“It’s not about the budget,” Billings firefighter Joe Sands said of the standoff in Wisconsin. “It’s about (the Wisconsin governor’s) power to strip us of our rights. It’s about crushing the groups that stand up for the middle class: Unions.”

“To the middle class in Montana and Wisconsin … we will not be broken, we will not give up, we will fight back and we will prevail.”

Sands and other speakers got a raucous reception at the rally, which occurred while legislators met inside the Capitol at floor sessions in the House and Senate.

Next week, after the 2011 Legislature’s midway break, the House Appropriations Committee will start voting on the proposed state budget for the next two years.

So far, the budget subcommittees have recommended millions of dollars in cuts from Gov. Brian Schweitzer’s proposed budget, in funding for public schools, the state university system and human services.

Rep. Walt McNutt, R-Sidney, who chairs the Appropriations Committee, emphasized Monday that the subcommittee actions are only recommendations and that the final budget may look much different.

However, McNutt also said Republicans believe there’s not enough on-going revenue to fund the governor’s budget, so some reductions must be made.

“We’re working with recommendations on how we can craft a budget that has less money than the (current) biennium’s budget,” he said. “There’s going to be less money. .. We’re trying not to be punitive for any one class or group (of programs and people).”

Speakers at the rally disputed the GOP view that a shortfall in tax revenue exists, saying the money is there to avoid budget reductions.

At the rally, John Fleming, a teacher and former state representative from St. Ignatius, criticized a vote last week to cut funding for and privatize the state veterans’ nursing home at Columbia Falls.

Fleming said his father-in-law, a World War II veteran of the Marines, is a resident of the home and gets excellent care from a dedicated staff.

“Now the Legislature is considering dismantling a facility that has served our country’s veterans since 1897,” he said. “I call that plain wrong – and I hope you do, too.”

Eric Feaver, president of MEA-MFT, the state’s largest public-sector union, said Montana is not Wisconsin, noting that Gov. Brian Schweitzer, a Democrat, told national news outlets last week that he believes in bargaining with public employee unions and respects their bargaining rights.

“I don’t know if that’s what Fox News wanted to hear, but that’s what they got,” Feaver said.

Schweitzer, who wasn’t at the rally but spoke later with the Lee Newspapers State Bureau, said he told Fox and CNN last week that a governor is like a CEO of a large company and should treat its employees with respect.

“We met with our unions (two years ago) and said, ‘Hey, we’re going to need your help here,’” the governor said, referring to a two-year pay freeze negotiated in 2008. “Imagine if a new CEO just a week before he takes over announces that all of the people who work for him are slow, lazy, overpaid or have too many benefits. What would that do to morale?”

This year, the Schweitzer administration negotiated a 1 percent pay raise for state workers starting next January and a 3 percent raise the following year. The Legislature has yet to act on the funding for the deal.

Senate Republican leadership at the Legislature released a statement in response to the rally, saying that workers “took their paid day off to protest fiscally responsible policies at the Montana Legislature.”

Senate Majority Leader Jeff Essmann, R-Billings, said state workers have pay and benefits higher than the average Montanan.

“Montana Republicans want to be fair with state employees, but they need to recognize that they need to be fair with state taxpayers,” he said.

Sands, who was flanked at the rally by a half-dozen uniformed firefighters from Butte, said Republicans are trying to “scapegoat public employees,” shifting the blame for the country’s economic meltdown and problems “from where it belongs, from Wall Street, to us, public employees.”

Copyright 2015 Helena Independent Record. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(32) Comments

  1. catspaw
    Report Abuse
    catspaw - March 01, 2011 10:37 am
    Alan_Rainey said: "catspaw-EXCELLENT point regading purple's hypocracy. It's absolutly disgusting to see someone cowardly blog against retired public sector workers and their pensions with one hand, all the while collecting from the goverment with the other. "

    Thanks Alan.
  2. myopin
    Report Abuse
    myopin - March 01, 2011 8:59 am
    Wisconsin's governor - scarey guy - gives me the creeps.
  3. Alan_Rainey
    Report Abuse
    Alan_Rainey - March 01, 2011 8:42 am
    catspaw-

    EXCELLENT point regading purple's hypocracy. It's absolutly disgusting to see someone cowardly blog against retired public sector workers and their pensions with one hand, all the while collecting from the goverment with the other.
  4. catspaw
    Report Abuse
    catspaw - February 26, 2011 10:00 pm
    Purple said: "Wrongoh dudet, I lost around half of my state retirement through bad investments by the folks in charge of the system. To save what was left when I quit, I cashed it in."

    Cmon Purp, you have been quibbling about this since prior to the ecomonic downfall. Not buying an early state cash in when the going was good. Who is the BS'er now? Not to mention no word from you when taxpayers should expect to see your federally funded (with taxpayer money) retirement. We have discussed both on other articles and this is the 1st "news" regarding the alleged cash in of state funded taxpayer dollars.

    However, I will play along. Since you already have the money, then it will be easier to return it to the taxpayers of Montana. Otherwise, your CREDIBILITY IS NON-EXISTANT with the daily monotonous dribble of abuse, corruption, greed, waste, mass hysteria, King Obama, those dirty Dems, etc., on every turn.

  5. Purple
    Report Abuse
    Purple - February 26, 2011 8:26 pm
    --gw-- said: "@purple - Nice attempt to redirect from your original (and very wrong) assertion that state employees were improperly absent from work on a holiday.How about a little redirection of my own for you....It is well past time for *you* to address the matter of excessive number of posts to the IR discussion boards. Since the new IR web format was rolled out ~1.5 years ago, at this time you have 4138 posts. By my back of the envelope calculation, that's an average of 7.6 posts per day. (Including holidays!!!)Do you get paid to make all these posts? Perhaps by George Soros or MoveOn.org? "

    Nope, not being paid, are you?
  6. Purple
    Report Abuse
    Purple - February 26, 2011 8:24 pm
    catspaw said: "gw - Don't hold your breathe waiting for any more nuggets of wisdom from your new friend Purp. He will probably continue his pre-rehearsed talking points by ripping on public employees and the federal gov't. However, interesting thing about our boy Purp, he himself was a state employee who will collect a retirement paid for by you and I. He will also collect military retirement, paid once again by you, I and about 250 million (give-or-take)folks who love this country. gw - be aware that your new friend will probably respond with the same old "....all of the abuse, fraud, waste working for state gov't...." lines and I am sure the the lines about King Obama, those dirty libs, "special class" lectures, and other irrelevant slants that have nothing to do with the topic at hand.Purple - IF YOU WANT TO HAVE ANY CREDIBILITY REGARDING THOSE SUBPAR PUBLIC EMPLOYEES AND FAILING FEDERAL GOVT (YOUR OPINION), THEN RECIND THE STATE AND FEDERAL RETIREMENTS BENNIES. Otherwise your arguments are typically going to be ALL BARK AND NO BITE."

    Wrongoh dudet, I lost around half of my state retirement through bad investments by the folks in charge of the system. To save what was left when I quit, I cashed it in.
  7. catspaw
    Report Abuse
    catspaw - February 26, 2011 2:38 pm
    gw - Don't hold your breathe waiting for any more nuggets of wisdom from your new friend Purp. He will probably continue his pre-rehearsed talking points by ripping on public employees and the federal gov't.

    However, interesting thing about our boy Purp, he himself was a state employee who will collect a retirement paid for by you and I. He will also collect military retirement, paid once again by you, I and about 250 million (give-or-take)folks who love this country.

    gw - be aware that your new friend will probably respond with the same old "....all of the abuse, fraud, waste working for state gov't...." lines and I am sure the the lines about King Obama, those dirty libs, "special class" lectures, and other irrelevant slants that have nothing to do with the topic at hand.

    Purple - IF YOU WANT TO HAVE ANY CREDIBILITY REGARDING THOSE SUBPAR PUBLIC EMPLOYEES AND FAILING FEDERAL GOVT (YOUR OPINION), THEN RECIND THE STATE AND FEDERAL RETIREMENTS BENNIES. Otherwise your arguments are typically going to be ALL BARK AND NO BITE.


  8. --gw--
    Report Abuse
    --gw-- - February 25, 2011 7:26 am
    @purple - Did you really mean to post that off-topic drivel about Fannie and Freddie in this thread?

    Honestly, you must get paid per post by someone like George Soros.
  9. Purple
    Report Abuse
    Purple - February 25, 2011 1:40 am
    This is where MASSIVE cuts in federal spending needs to take place.

    http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/U/US_EARNS_FREDDIE_MAC?SITE=AP&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT&CTIME=2011-02-24-16-27-33

    For the sixth quarter in a row Freddie Mac has posted a loss. Their loss for the 4th quarter is $1.7 BILLION, which leaves the taxpayers holding the bag. Not only that but Freddie Mac is asking for $500 MILLION more.

    During the early years of G.W.s presidency, he proposed regulating the evil twins, Fannie and Freddie, on at least two if not three occasions, but those super intelligent liberals Barney Frank and Chris Dodd prevented it from happening because they claimed that Fannie and Freddie were in GOOD shape and weren't in need of being regulated.

    All taxpayers should be thankful for how healthy Fannie and Freddie are. By the time all is said and done, the taxpayers of this country will be on the hook to pay off the debt incurred by Fannie and Freddie to the tune of tens of billions if not hundreds of billions of dollars.
  10. Bojangles
    Report Abuse
    Bojangles - February 24, 2011 1:32 pm
    justme59601 said: "what the democrats can't or refuse to understand is that you can't spent more than you earn. so if you're income decreases, then expenses have to decrease. it's very simple yet even on a federal level our spending far outweighs revenues. and if the democrats have their way, it will be that way for many years to come. (obamacare, $53 Billion train to name only two)"

    What republicans can't or refuse to understand is that on a federal level - this all came about from Bush policies. Can we get off the Demo-Repub BS you all are so married to and deal with issues.

    Like say we cut the benefits for lazy veterans who simply complain about IR letters all day while doing nothing to earn for themselves. How's that sound Purple and Patriot?
  11. --gw--
    Report Abuse
    --gw-- - February 24, 2011 6:57 am
    @purple - Nice attempt to redirect from your original (and very wrong) assertion that state employees were improperly absent from work on a holiday.

    How about a little redirection of my own for you....

    It is well past time for *you* to address the matter of excessive number of posts to the IR discussion boards. Since the new IR web format was rolled out ~1.5 years ago, at this time you have 4138 posts. By my back of the envelope calculation, that's an average of 7.6 posts per day. (Including holidays!!!)

    Do you get paid to make all these posts? Perhaps by George Soros or MoveOn.org?
  12. Purple
    Report Abuse
    Purple - February 24, 2011 1:27 am
    --gw-- said: "@purple - Do you *ever* think before touching your keyboard? Next time try Googling "Montana state holidays" and follow the first link.http://www.doj.mt.gov/department/stateholidays.aspThis ranks right up there with your past statements about Quaddafi stopping supporting terrorism after Reagan bombed Libya in 1986 (oh wait, Pan Am 103 and UTA 772) and Clinton almost burned all of Yellowstone with the let burn policy (oh wait, that was summer of 1988 when Reagan was president)."

    WHICH CAME FIRST, THE CHICKEN OR THE EGG?

    Would they be state holidays if they weren't FEDERAL HOLIDAYS first? Most likely NOT.

    It is well past time for the state legislature to address the matter of excessive number of PAID state holidays.

    There is a lot of work state employees could be doing which does not require interaction with federal employees, so there is a GREATER demand for FEWER state holidays.

    It would actually mean the taxpayers would be getting MORE for their hard earned money.
  13. --gw--
    Report Abuse
    --gw-- - February 23, 2011 10:27 am
    @purple - Do you *ever* think before touching your keyboard? Next time try Googling "Montana state holidays" and follow the first link.
    http://www.doj.mt.gov/department/stateholidays.asp

    This ranks right up there with your past statements about Quaddafi stopping supporting terrorism after Reagan bombed Libya in 1986 (oh wait, Pan Am 103 and UTA 772) and Clinton almost burned all of Yellowstone with the let burn policy (oh wait, that was summer of 1988 when Reagan was president).
  14. Purple
    Report Abuse
    Purple - February 23, 2011 8:30 am
    steeline said: "The United States has boasted as being a Free Country, ruled by the majority. That means free to do as you wish. If you don't like the pay you recieve get another job, that is your right. The people of Montana are not obligated to pay the help anymore than the people of Montana can afford. Our country is in trouble, thanks to big spending government. The unions are not elected representatives, they have "wormed" there way into politics at the expense of the very people that are forced to join unions. If you are a good productive worker you will be in demand if you are not a good productive worker, well you won't be needed until you decide to be a good productive worker. There should not be a free lunch for anyone. It is time for sacrafice for the good of the Nation. Go home and take a look at your kids. What do you plan on leaving for them? A broke country? Get real folks stop being fools and give thanks for what you do have as things are going to get worse if you don't sacrafice. Our young kids sacrafice their lives and limbs in defense of our country, your rights and freedom, what are you willing to do for your country? We have to get America Right."

    They are unwilling to because they believe they are too good to put their lives on the line to defend even their own families.
  15. Purple
    Report Abuse
    Purple - February 22, 2011 7:34 pm
    fivemsandme said: "Purple what planet do you live on?? Yesterday was a State holiday so these workers did not have to be at work! Before you type something maybe you should check your facts! I swear do you ever have anything nice to say about anything or anybody? "

    PRESIDENTS DAYS is a "state holiday"? NO, it is a federal holiday and the only folks who should have the day off are "federal employees".

    If state employees don't think they are oh so special, maybe they should explain to the 80 percent of Montanans who are not government employees why they get so many holidays off when compared to the rest of us.
  16. dingo
    Report Abuse
    dingo - February 22, 2011 7:09 pm
    Public unions are nothing more than upscale mobs that shake down public employees for money to further the union's own selfish political agendas and contribute to Democrat political campaigns. All of this equals higher taxes, without proper representation. Public employees should be able to opt out of joining a union.
  17. Curmudgeon
    Report Abuse
    Curmudgeon - February 22, 2011 1:31 pm
    Wow, PURPLE, "raping" and "pillaging"?

    Good to see you're using your habitual restrained language.
  18. fivemsandme
    Report Abuse
    fivemsandme - February 22, 2011 1:23 pm
    Purple what planet do you live on?? Yesterday was a State holiday so these workers did not have to be at work! Before you type something maybe you should check your facts! I swear do you ever have anything nice to say about anything or anybody?
  19. slowclap
    Report Abuse
    slowclap - February 22, 2011 12:14 pm
    For those of you reaming State Employees for not being at work yesterday, it was President's Day, a day a lot of employees, not just State Workers, get off. However, as someone else said below, I'm sure most of those people were simply working their 2nd job as the State does not pay anywhere near as well as what the majority of people apparently think it does. Anyway, for those State workers at the Capitol yesterday, they were on their day off, exercising their right to Free Speech.

    For all those who think the State workers have it so good, why don't you get one of those jobs? They are always listed and available. I for one would rather try to improve my situation than sit back and complain about what others may or may not have in comparison to myself. Then again, it is a lot easier to complain than to try to change things.

    To JIBJAB: I live in Helena, and like you, I was curious as to the cost of the new State Fund building. A simple Google search will show you that the building cost just north of $20 million to construct. More interestingly though, not one dollar spent on the building was from taxpayers or those who get insurance through State Fund. The building was paid for by investment income funds that were distributed by the Montana Board of Investments. Also interesting, every aspect of the building, from design, to construction to finishing was all done by Montana-based companies and workers. So yeah, while State Fund and all State employees are an easy target for the population's venom; as with most everything else this session, the opinions are misguided and nowhere based in fact.
  20. Lewistownian
    Report Abuse
    Lewistownian - February 22, 2011 11:56 am
    Purple said: "So how many of those public employees had a "valid" excuse for NOT being at work?Those who didn't should be either have their pay docked for the hours they missed or terminated.Public employees work for the taxpayers, not the government, since it is the taxpayers who pay the vast majority of their wages and benefits."

    Well Purp, my father was one of the many down there exercising his constitutionally protected right. Yes, he took the day off. Why? Because his boss forces him to take off time for the next couple of months because he never uses his vacation or sick leave. Valid enough for you? You'd have an easier time prying Heston's rifle from his cold dead fingers than getting my father to take time off. He's at work everyday trying to make the county better. But to you, he's a free-loadin', parasitic, piece of garbage. Bitter much?


    Do you guys remember that public employees pay taxes too? So how exactly does one "rape and pillage" himself Purp?

  21. YourCrazy
    Report Abuse
    YourCrazy - February 22, 2011 11:26 am
    Purple said: "So how many of those public employees had a "valid" excuse for NOT being at work?Those who didn't should be either have their pay docked for the hours they missed or terminated.Public employees work for the taxpayers, not the government, since it is the taxpayers who pay the vast majority of their wages and benefits."

    I take NOTHING of value from you comments when you don't even bother to read the story to know that NOBODY missed work without a valid excuse on Presidents day. You folks from Helena do understand that State employees pretty much keep the city of Helena afloat don't you? What other industry would support this community without those employed by State gov? Mining? Ranching? etc? Think about it.

  22. JIBJAB
    Report Abuse
    JIBJAB - February 22, 2011 10:53 am
    caribouboy said: "Surprise, surprise, Eric Feaver mentions having Gavernor Schweitzer in his back pocket. Well unions around the country have had the Dems in their back pockets for years.The Montana State Fund is running on fumes and it's time foe state employees to start facing the realization that taxpayers of Montana don't have unlimited funds.The next law that needs to be passed is for school funding votes. Those elections should coincide with regular elections so all voters have the chance to be heard. The process which schedules school funding elections so that the teachers union/Democrat's base is the only group motivated to vote is a sham. "

    Funny thing about Montana State Fund. That sure is a nice building that they just recently finished constructing. I would like to know what that cost?
  23. mtbiker
    Report Abuse
    mtbiker - February 22, 2011 10:40 am
    How did an economic rescession caused by a Republican president and the excesses of the private sector (the high-rollers on Wall Street) get turned into an assault on state employees, public servants? Any budget gaps (remember that Montana is in the black) should be filled by those wealthy few who are responsible for the tanked economy. The tax payer bailed them out after all (capitalism for profits, socialism for losses!). Fair is fair.
  24. skysthelimit
    Report Abuse
    skysthelimit - February 22, 2011 10:16 am
    Where did the money come from for their self voted pay raises?
  25. steeline
    Report Abuse
    steeline - February 22, 2011 10:14 am
    The United States has boasted as being a Free Country, ruled by the majority. That means free to do as you wish. If you don't like the pay you recieve get another job, that is your right. The people of Montana are not obligated to pay the help anymore than the people of Montana can afford. Our country is in trouble, thanks to big spending government. The unions are not elected representatives, they have "wormed" there way into politics at the expense of the very people that are forced to join unions. If you are a good productive worker you will be in demand if you are not a good productive worker, well you won't be needed until you decide to be a good productive worker. There should not be a free lunch for anyone. It is time for sacrafice for the good of the Nation. Go home and take a look at your kids. What do you plan on leaving for them? A broke country? Get real folks stop being fools and give thanks for what you do have as things are going to get worse if you don't sacrafice. Our young kids sacrafice their lives and limbs in defense of our country, your rights and freedom, what are you willing to do for your country? We have to get America Right.
  26. The Big L
    Report Abuse
    The Big L - February 22, 2011 8:03 am
    Senate Republican leadership at the Legislature released a statement in response to the rally, saying that workers “took their paid day off to protest fiscally responsible policies at the Montana Legislature.”

    I would be willing to bet that there were more state workers that were working at their second job on Monday than there were at the protest. I have two state workers that work for me and they both said they could work yesterday.

  27. justme59601
    Report Abuse
    justme59601 - February 22, 2011 7:25 am
    what the democrats can't or refuse to understand is that you can't spent more than you earn. so if you're income decreases, then expenses have to decrease. it's very simple yet even on a federal level our spending far outweighs revenues. and if the democrats have their way, it will be that way for many years to come. (obamacare, $53 Billion train to name only two)
  28. caribouboy
    Report Abuse
    caribouboy - February 22, 2011 6:17 am
    Surprise, surprise, Eric Feaver mentions having Gavernor Schweitzer in his back pocket. Well unions around the country have had the Dems in their back pockets for years.

    The Montana State Fund is running on fumes and it's time foe state employees to start facing the realization that taxpayers of Montana don't have unlimited funds.

    The next law that needs to be passed is for school funding votes. Those elections should coincide with regular elections so all voters have the chance to be heard. The process which schedules school funding elections so that the teachers union/Democrat's base is the only group motivated to vote is a sham.
  29. patriot
    Report Abuse
    patriot - February 22, 2011 6:14 am
    So now it is time for all public employees to stand up for what is rightfully theirs, lets raise taxes and take more from the private sector to fund our retirement years and health benefits. If our states citizens can not support us lets get the federal government to fund our needs. Like House Minority Leader Jon Sesso, D-Butte, said the federal government is “inextricably linked” to the state’s economy, with Montana receiving much more in federal funds than its citizens pay in taxes.

  30. Purple
    Report Abuse
    Purple - February 22, 2011 2:23 am
    So how many of those public employees had a "valid" excuse for NOT being at work?

    Those who didn't should be either have their pay docked for the hours they missed or terminated.

    Public employees work for the taxpayers, not the government, since it is the taxpayers who pay the vast majority of their wages and benefits.
  31. Purple
    Report Abuse
    Purple - February 22, 2011 2:17 am
    The state legislature should follow the example of Wisconsin, Michigan, and a growing number of states who are putting the unions which represent a SPECIAL CLASS of citizens, public employees, on notice that the era of raping and pillaging the taxpayers is over.
  32. Gods_Infidel
    Report Abuse
    Gods_Infidel - February 22, 2011 2:11 am
    So the rally was about Wisconsin's governor trying to strip away rights of Billing's firefighters? I agree, that's horrid!

    On a more serious note; there are many corporations and private businesses that are taking serious cuts due to the financial situation in this country. Perhaps the state needs to share in that burden. State jobs have long been the holy grail of the common man. Great benefits, an abundance of paid holidays, and job security. It sucks if some of the sheen needs to be taken off the platter, but that's what happens when the state runs out of money, it's employees get less. Just like the private sector.

    And if everyone is so upset that Wall Street is still making money, while they are not, go and work there. My economics teacher in college used to speak of the "invisible hand" that moves the market. It wasn't high paid lobbyists in some dark room, it was the consumer; us, we the people, who dictate the direction of the economy. Perhaps we should be looking closer to our own overpriced and exorbitant homes for someone to blame.

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