For MBPC, like many of you, 2017 has been a fast-paced, intense year, and 2018 is already looking to be another busy one. As we reflect on this past year and the work ahead, we also want to thank the many Montanans who have supported our work. We have witnessed a state budget crisis, which led to massive cuts in our collective investments in education, health care, and other critical public services. We have weathered repeated federal attacks on the Affordable Care Act. And finally, we recently saw the restructuring of our federal tax code, which will primarily benefit the wealthiest and corporations.
To be sure: we have a lot of work ahead of us in 2018. But while we reflect on the many challenges this past year brought, we also want to reflect on some of the successes we shared together and how we can continue to make progress in 2018.
State Earned Income Tax Credit
We want to start with the positive. After over a decade of work by legislators and advocates, Montana became the 28th state to enact a state Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). Throughout the session, we heard from working parents who have accessed the federal credit during difficult times. Enacting a state earned income credit is an important step forward to and helping 80,000 low- and moderate-income working families better make ends meet while also making our tax system fairer.
State Budget & Revenue
Without a doubt, our work on the state budget will continue to be challenging in the aftermath of a severe revenue shortfall and deep budget cuts. We are analyzing the real-life impacts of these cuts and also how federal tax cuts may impact state revenue moving forward. Throughout 2018 we will continue to lift up the stories of Montana families hurt by budget cuts, and we intend to return to the 2019 legislative session with revenue proposals to build a stronger state budget.
Affordable Care Act
Congress came close to repealing and replacing the ACA with several bills this past year. All of them would have caused millions to lose health coverage, weakened protections for people with pre-existing conditions, and effectively ended Medicaid expansion to low-income adults over time. Given that seniors, people with disabilities, and children comprise about two-thirds of Medicaid beneficiaries, ACA repeal would have taken away coverage from some of our most vulnerable Montanans. Although we were successful in preventing the repeal of the ACA, the individual mandate repeal in the federal tax plan is a blow to the integrity of the ACA. We must continue to stay diligent defending and strengthening access to affordable health care coverage and stabilizing the marketplace.
Extend Medicaid Expansion in 2019
Looking ahead to 2019, we are working with partner organizations to prevent the repeal of Montana’s successful Medicaid expansion, which has provided health coverage for 86,000 Montanans. Expansion has injected over $700 million in federal funds into our local communities and has saved the state over $30 million in general fund dollars in the first 18 months of enrollment. Hospitals, especially in rural communities that treat higher numbers of low-income patients, are seeing a greater number of patients with insurance and lower uncompensated care costs. Montana’s Medicaid expansion has been a success, and our state legislature will need to ensure this health care coverage for tens of thousands of low-income Montanans is maintained.
The Federal Tax Bill Passed, But It’s Not Over Yet
The federal tax bill is an expensive giveaway to major corporations and wealthy households, which offers little or nothing to most Montana families –and ultimately hurts many. While corporations are gifted permanent tax breaks, the rest of us will actually see our taxes go up in the long run. This tax cut bill increases the deficit by a whopping $1.5 trillion over ten years, and GOP leadership are already aiming for far-reaching budget cuts to food assistance, Medicaid, and college assistance next year that could make it much harder for struggling families to buy food, see a doctor, afford college, or otherwise make ends meet.
In other words, our hardest work to is yet to come.
At MBPC, we believe all Montanans deserve strong, healthy, and safe communities, so we will continue advocating for a sound state budget that prioritizes investments to create opportunity for everyone and ensure our children and grandchildren have a bright future.
Our success would not be possible without the many supporters across the state who recognize the value of this work to lift up the voices of those who are often struggling to get by. There is still time to give in 2017 to make our work even more meaningful in the coming year!
If you believe that we need to invest in this state that we love and invest in our families and communities, please support us in the work we do. 2018 - here we come!
MBPC is a nonprofit organization focused on providing credible and timely research and analysis on budget, tax, and economic issues that impact low- and moderate-income Montana families.