As I reflect on the 66th Legislature, I cannot but help to tell you my utmost truth, because to me truth is much more interesting than political cliché.
Minority Leader Casey Schneider is correct. All his parties’ major goals were accomplished. His minority party, along with the moderate “Solutions Caucus” Republicans controlled the deciding votes this session. To be forthright, myself and most legislators voted for the civil and criminal revisions on child sex assault, firefighters' compensation benefits and Hanna’s Act. There are issues everyone can agree on. What I can’t for the life of me understand is the division within the Montana Republican Party.
I walked into a room with a lot of lines already drawn as I entered the Capitol this January. People with biases and grudges I was not aware of. Our hard-working Speaker Greg Hertz had to manage egos and division within his own caucus. Hertz did an amazing job this winter; his work ethic and leadership gave me pride to serve with him. Unfortunately for him, and the rest of our minority conservative caucus, we were the unrepresented minority in deciding votes that raised our taxes. As conservatives we created a meme: our real vote count was 38-62, “the 38 special.” Conservative voices were kept out of the discussion on major issues. It was fascinating to watch.
The path forward seems obvious to me. President Trump will win in 2020, and there will be a historic sweep in the federal House and Senate after our nation learns just how criminal the Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama shenanigans were. In 2021 there will be a clear mandate from national leadership. There are new ideas being planned for our healthcare system in the White House now. Personal healthcare savings accounts, tax free, under control of the individual, should be one.
Furthermore, we need more entrepreneurial freedom for our doctors, healthcare professionals and hospitals. We could have a plethora of free-market options, which rewards ingenuity, if we reverse our bureaucratic nightmare in control of the healthcare industry. The answer is not more government welfare or regulation, it is the individual given access to more options to decide for themselves what healthcare provider can serve them best.
Medicaid expansion is financially insolvent. Within the latest state version of Medicaid expansion, our hospitals charge a new $30 million bed tax, matched by the fed's 90/10 to result in a $300 million windfall to our state's hospitals. This new tax was necessary because the program is so insolvent to begin with! My local hospital takes losses on each Medicaid expansion patient, and 75% of their business is Medicare, Medicaid and Medicaid expansion. That is a staggering number to me. It is my belief we will have better options presented to us in 2021.
While the conservative caucus was a minority this session, I see success for our belief systems and our party in the future at a state level. We will have genuine federal leadership next election cycle in regard to health care. With a Republican state governor, all the Solutions Caucus games stop. I call on all my engaged patriotic Republicans across the state to examine your representatives' voting records. The solution for conservatives is to primary those within our party who we disagree with politically. We must do this by having better candidates, and greater conservative energy in our central committees.
Let us not resort to name-calling, whining and disparaging remarks on the internet or salacious attacks. The correct path forward is to find better candidates and win the vote where it belongs, at the doors of our constituents next summer.