Large tax cuts jeopardize public safety
Guest column

Large tax cuts jeopardize public safety

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For communities and businesses to prosper, they must be safe. From the 9-1-1 call through to the arrest, conviction and incarceration of felony offenders, Montana citizens rely on state-funded public safety and justice programs to support that goal.

I was dismayed to read in a Dec. 4, 2019 letter to the editor by Walter McNutt that U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte had proposed tax cuts of 30%, a claim Gianforte’s office has denied to the Missoulian's Opinion editor. Such cuts in the next biennium would cause serious consequences to public safety across the state. Montana voters deserve to hear directly from Gianforte to put concerns at ease.

We can’t all afford to provide our own security and safety, like those with Gianforte’s wealth. Taxes are the way individuals combine our resources to fund critical collective needs that we can’t provide ourselves, such as education, public safety and a social safety net.

Since Montana’s Legislature must craft a balanced budget every two years, every dollar cut in taxes requires cuts in spending. State spending on public safety includes highway safety, criminal justice, the judicial system, corrections, mental health, addiction treatment and child/family services. These are critical to making Montana a safe place to live and raise our families.

These systems are at maximum capacity now and a 30% cut undoubtedly threatens public safety and will impact local tax coffers and local public safety services — police, fire, ambulance, jails and 9-1-1 centers.

When you call 9-1-1 to report a violent crime or medical emergency and you’re told all units are busy, then what? Or your stalker can’t be jailed because the jail is full of state inmates awaiting prison? How about when your daughter’s rapist can’t be convicted because of backlogs of evidence in the crime lab?

Montana voters must critically contemplate promises of tax cuts with a wary eye. A principled leader is concerned with keeping the public safe. Montana voters must elect leaders who will responsibly help this state improve public safety.

Mark Muir is an attorney and former public safety official. He served for 23 years as a police officer and retired as Missoula’s chief of police in 2013. 

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