Op-Ed: Sen. Ed Butcher Explains ‘Media Benefited from Campaign Ads, Not Voters’


[Sen. Ed Butcher] The election season is finally completed and the media industry scored a profit windfall! In the Montana Senate race–approximately $150 million was spent to influence roughly 150,000 undecided voters. The general population was more irritated than informed by the deluge of campaign material funded by those with agendas attempting to unseat incumbents. Unfortunately, ads were often based only on partial “truths” and some statements were totally misleading in an effort to sway uninformed voters as some candidates attempted to distract voters from their changed positions on issues.

An example was candidate Bullock claiming credit for “balancing the state budget” during his terms as governor. The truth is a governor has little or no control over “balancing the state budget” because the Montana Constitution REQUIRES a balanced budget. A state cannot print money and the responsibility to structure a balanced budget is totally the responsibility of the legislative budgeting process—not the governor’s office who can only veto a budget presented to him by the Legislature who in turn can vote to over-ride a governor’s veto.

The Governor along with other elected officials proposes an administrative budget to the legislative House
Appropriations Committee and the Senate Finance Committee who spends the entire legislative session analyzing the requests for funding by the various departments and makes the final decisions on where tax dollars are to be spent. The legislature has to match government spending to anticipate tax revenue as well as providing for emergency funds.

Democrat elected officials tend to present inflated agency budgets with “pet projects” and the legislature has to make the final decision whether to increase or add new taxes to fund the bureaucracy programs while meeting the Constitutional balanced budget requirement.

Recent Democrat governors have continually pressed the legislature for more spending which has required more tax money. With help from the “Democrat Wing” of the Republican Caucus, these governors have been successful during the past sixteen years to increase state government spending and taxes from $6 Billion to $14 Billion. Keep in mind that there has not been a significant increase in Montana’s population to pay for the required tax and fee increases.

The only credit Governor Bullock can claim is helping elect Democrat Liberals as Republicans in several conservative Republican voting districts who joined Democrat legislators to support increased spending to fund the Governor’s projects by increasing taxes to meet the Constitutional requirement for a “Balanced Budget.”

In summary Governor Bullock’s recent campaign ads claiming he “balanced” the state budget simply mislead the uninformed voters and certainly reflect poorly on a candidate’s truthfulness!!!

Sen. Ed Butcher (Ret) is a Central Montana rancher/businessman and former college political history professor who served for 10 years in the Montana Senate and House as a member of the Senate Finance Committee and the House Taxation Committee representing Central Montana.


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