Elections and Government Services Administrative Rules of Montana Business Services Notary and Certification Records and Information Management

Argument For CI-97 

  • CI-97 is Montana’s Stop Over-Spending (SOS) initiative . Itcaps state government spending growth to the combined growth in inflation plus population; unless the voters approve higher spending . 84,000 Montanans signed CI-97, almost twice the required number.
  • Montana currently spends $8.2 billion per biennium for a population of less than one million people. Each biennium, Montana government spends $35,000 for every family of four – even though the average wages are only about $27,000 annually!
  • Montana’s current budget increased $1 billion over the last budget – the highest increase in history.
  • This huge increase occurred because Montana’s politicians ignored Montana’s old statutory spending cap. For 24 years, Montana’s spending cap controlled excessive budget increases, while still adequately funding all government functions; with only minor inadvertent cap violations.
  • Unfortunately, last year Montana’s Attorney General declared the statutory spending cap unconstitutional. To restore a budget cap, Montanans must vote for a constitutional ballot issue – CI-97.
  • Similar to Montana’s old cap, CI-97 doesn’t cut any government programs. CI-97 allows the state budget to grow to meet needs – inflation plus population growth.
  • Due to Montana Supreme Court rulings, CI-97 can only protect the General Fund from excess spending growth – which only represents 38% of Montana’s total budget.
  • CI-97 is flexible. It has numerous exclusions , including: all federal money, trust funds, special revenue accounts (like highway construction), rainy-day reserve funds, emergencies, and roughly 15 other exemptions.
  • CI-97 is reasonable. 26 other states already have spending limitations; and several others have initiatives in progress.
  • CI-97 vastly improves upon other spending caps ; like Colorado’s TABOR. Unlike TABOR, CI-97 doesn’t ratchet spending backward during recession. CI-97’s flexibility encourages politicians to establish a rainy-day emergency fund and rebate excess taxes.
  • CI-97 puts voters in charge of their government . If state politicians want to spend more than allowed, they have to ask Montana voters; who can always be trusted to make the right decision. Last fall, Colorado voters proved this “ultimate safety valve” works by approving excess spending.
  • Unfortunately, unlike Colorado, Montana’s government spending is outrageous. Nationwide, Colorado spending (as a percentage of income) is the lowest, while Montana spending is one of the highest.
  • Academic research proves excess government spending causes slow wage growth. It’s no surprise Montana wages rank near the bottom of the nation’s barrel. Colorado, conversely, has shown some of the nation’s fastest wage growth during its years under TABOR. Washington and Oklahoma showed similar fast economic growth while under tax and expenditure limitations.

This proves CI-97 is the right choice – politicians should live by the same budgeting standards that Montana families and businesses live by every day. Our families can’t just vote themselves a raise to spend beyond our means, and under CI-97, politicians can’t either. CI-97 will stop out-of-control government spending during boom times, and instead encourage responsible saving for future lean times. Or, better yet – government can give the money back to taxpayers when it collects excess taxes.

  • VOTE YES on CI-97.

The PROPONENT argument and rebuttal for this measure were prepared by Representative Scott Mendenhall, Senator Joe Balyeat, CPA, and Representative George Everett.

 The OPPONENT argument and rebuttal for this measure were prepared by Douglas H. Neil, County Commissioner Daniel D. Watson, Teresa Olcott Cohea, Max Logan, and Judie Woodhouse.

Opponents' Rebuttal

Unfortunately, CI-97 proponents attempt to mislead voters with bogus numbers and arguments.

  • CI-97 barely qualified for the ballot. Supporters claim they gathered 84,000 signatures. Out-of-state groups pushing CI-97 brought in out-of-state petitioners and paid them per signature. But only 48,016 signatures were certified as valid. The rest were fraudulent, duplicates, or otherwise invalid.
  • CI-97’s rigid formula (inflation-plus-population) is unworkable. It will not allow the state to keep up with the cost of providing services – just as in Colorado.
    • Inflation (Consumer Price Index) measures what consumers buy, not what state government buys. The state buys things like firefighting and health services. These costs increase much faster than the CPI.
    • Overall population does not reflect the rapid growth in Montana’s senior population, which relies more on public services.
  • CI-97 affects more than Montana ’s general fund. It will cause higher fees and local property taxes by shifting the burden of funding services to local governments.
  • The $8.2 billion proponents mention includes billions in federal support funds. To claim it’s all state spending is grossly misleading.
  • Montana is not a big-spending state. We rank in the bottom third in government spending as a percentage of income. (Bureau of Economic Analysis)

Job and wage growth in Montana are now increasing faster than the national average. (Bureau of Labor Statistics) We are finally headed in the right direction. Why gamble on CI-97, another out-of-state gimmick like energy deregulation? Vote NO on CI-97.