Long-term care, taxes, fake lawyers
All in this week's Legislative Bulletin #7!
Budget Committee falls short in funding Senior Long-Term Care in HB 2!
A swimmer is drowning 20 feet off the side of your yacht. Do you:
Throw him a 10-foot lifeline.
Throw him a 15-foot lifeline.
Throw him a 20-foot lifeline.
The Governor’s budget is the 10-foot lifeline.
The majority members* of the Joint Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services opted for the 15-foot lifeline.
The Democrats on the committee, Vice Chair Rep. Mary Caferro (D-Helena) and Sen. Chris Pope (D-Bozeman), argued (unsuccessfully) that without the 20-foot lifeline, the victim will drown.
*Majority members of the subcommittee:
Chair Rep. Bob Keenan (R-Big Fork), Sen. Carl Glimm (R-Kila) (Vice Chair), Sen. Dennis Lenz (R-Billings) and Rep. Jane Gillette (R-Gallatin Gateway)
Eleven Montana nursing homes closed in the last year, representing 857 beds and 16% of the state’s nursing homes. Many were in isolated rural communities far from any other qualified facilities.
Dozens of nursing home providers testified in early January that they are hanging by a thread, waiting to see if the state will pass a provider rate that will allow them to keep their doors open.
Policy makers paid consulting firm Guidehouse $2.7 million to rigorously study the costs of providing senior long-term care (SLTC) in Montana. The results:
The study recommended a benchmark of $278/day.
The actual costs are closer to $330/day.
The current reimbursement is a mere $209/day.
The Committee vote:
On Thursday, the Committee voted 2-4 (party-line) against Sen. Pope’s motion to fully fund the benchmark provider rate of $278/day (the 20-foot line).
The committee then passed a provider rate estimated at $261/day (the 15-foot line).
Rep. Caferro has introduced HB 649, to fully fund the benchmark (the 20-foot line). More info to come on action items for this bill.
Please send an email to the House Appropriations Committee members regarding long-term care funding in HB 2.
House Appropriations Committee email addresses: Llew.Jones@legmt.gov, Bob.Keenan@legmt.gov, Mary.Caferro@legmt.gov, David.Bedey@legmt.gov, Michele.Binkley@legmt.gov, Terry.Falk@legmt.gov, John.Fitzpatrick@legmt.gov, Jane.Gillette@legmt.gov, Jim.Hamilton@legmt.gov, Naarah.Hastings@legmt.gov, Lyn.Hellegaard@legmt.gov, Mike.Hopkins@legmt.gov, Connie.Keogh@legmt.gov, Emma.KC@legmt.gov, Bill.Mercer@legmt.gov, Terry.Moore@legmt.gov, Fiona.Nave@legmt.gov, Joe.Read@legmt.gov, Matt.Regier@legmt.gov, Jerry.Schillinger@legmt.gov, SharonStewartPeregoy@legmt.gov, Paul.Tuss@legmt.gov, Jonathan.WindyBoy@legmt.gov
Ask them to fully fund the $278 benchmark rate recommended by Guidehouse.
SB 296 (Sen. Becky Beard, R-Elliston) adopts a schedule and a formula to regularly review senior Long-Term Care costs. Big Sky 55+ supports this bill.
Big Sky 55+ joined rural and urban nursing home administrators from across the state and county commissioners who testified in support of this common sense “eyes wide open” tool for preventing the catastrophic closures of 2022 in the future.
SB 296 puts in place a regular review (every 4 years) of long-term care cost variables such as inflation, changing demand and quality and safety measures.
The bill addresses some of the systemic problems in long-term care finances and aims to stabilize the industry in Montana. Read more about the bill here.
Join us by contacting members on the Senate Committee on Public Health, Welfare and Public Safety. Ask them to support SB 296. You can send a message to the whole committee here.
The Legislature passes $1 billion in tax cuts and rebates… Who gets it?
A “6-pack” of bills to distribute $1 billion of the state’s surplus, much of it in tax rebates or lowered taxes for certain payers, is working its way through the legislature. These bills have already passed in one Chamber and most have already been transmitted in the 2nd Chamber.
The billion dollar question:
In this chart, the Montana Budget and Policy Center shows where the money would land. The highest income Montanans will gain the most from this $1 billion-package of legislation.
A different approach?
A year ago, Colorado was in a similar financial position and made a very different choice.
The Democratic-controlled legislature split the surplus funds evenly among all eligible Coloradans.
funds went to Coloradans who either filed an income tax return in 2021 or applied for a property tax, rent, or heat credit in 2021.
The “Colorado Cash Back” checks were $750 to each taxpayer, $1,500 to a couple.
If Montana followed Colorado’s lead, it would amount to $1,667 per person and $3,333 per couple filing jointly!
Contact your Senator and Representative. You can find your legislators here. Let them know you are concerned about the tax-cut bills moving through the legislature (HB 189, HB 192, HB 212, HB 221, HB 222, SB 121). Call on them to value the hard work of all Montanans when they dole out their billion dollars in surplus, rather than special favors for the richest, many of whom are relatively recent arrivals.
Big Sky 55+ supports targeted Social Security tax break
Last Thursday, Big Sky55+ stood in support of SB 258 (Maryann Dunwell, D-East Helena), "Establish Social Security Income Tax Credit."
SB 258 allows up to a $1,200 credit on social security taxes for taxpayers whose total income is less than $65,000 for joint returns, $55,000 for head of household, and $45,000 for all others.
“[This tax credit] is sustainable, because it is targeted to where it is most needed and can do the most good,” Big Sky 55+ lobbyist Margie MacDonald testified. "It is impactful, because the households that get this credit pretty much are living hand to mouth. It will go straight out the door to the pharmacist, the hardware store, the grocery store, the dentist and the eye doctor.”
Send a message to the Senate Taxation Committee here. Ask them to support SB 258.
And finally, FAKE LAWYERS
Lawmaker and pro se* legal beagle, ignoring 220 years of case law and jurisprudence, tell our Courts to mind their own business!
Senate Judiciary Chair Keith Regier (R-Kalispell) wants to clarify who makes laws and who interprets them. “Nowhere does the Montana Constitution say that the Supreme Court defines the law,” said Sen. Regier, a retired teacher and school administrator, as he introduced SJ 11, “Joint Resolution Defining Law” on Feb. 17.
Apparently, Sen. Regier is not familiar with the 220 years of jurisprudence and case law to the contrary (Marbury vs. Madison” 1803).
Sen. Regier’s flash of original new legal thought was backed up by his main proponent, a litigious pro se “lawyer” from the Flathead. (*Definition of "pro se": a person represents himself/herself in court without the assistance of an attorney. Pro se litigants are held to the same standard as attorneys but are not attorneys.)