Montana has too much money, let’s party!

Today there is a big headline in our small-town newspaper: “$200,000 Available in Special Event Grants”.  It was “submitted” by the Montana Department of Commerce.  I guess that would be an advertisement, right?  Our government is so desperate to give money away, they have to advertise in small town newspapers.

Anyway, they want us to have parties.  “Any Montana event is eligible to apply and the funds must be used to advertise and promote the event to target markets outside a 100-mile radius of the event site.”

I think I’ll have a beer kegger and invite the motorcycle dudes from Butte.  Those guys know how to party!

“Since its inception in 2002, the Special Event grant program has been able to provide $757,500 in grant money to 89 events across the state”, the article continues.   Gee, that is so generous of the program to give us all that money!  Oh wait, where did that money come from?

This “grant” thing has become an epidemic.  Taxpayers in Fargo pay for a party in Milwaukee, and Little Rock pays for a party in Phoenix, and Kansas City pays for a party in Missoula, and everybody thinks their parties are free.  Now multiply this by thousands and thousands of grants awarded in every city of the United States every day.   Grants for trails.  Grants for home improvements.  Grants for trees.  Grants for seminars on how to write grants.

There are people in Montana state offices (paid by your tax dollars) who think having community parties is a good thing.  Maybe it is, but then why shouldn’t the community pony up the money to advertise its own party?

Unfortunately, our dumbed-down citizenry thinks that grants really are free money.  They repeatedly hear mayors and city councils say, “No local money is being spent on this project – we received a grant.”  In my small hometown we have a lady who makes a nice living doing nothing but writing grant requests.  Local officials love them because it gives voters the impression that they are “doing something” without spending our hard-earned money.  How can anybody turn down free money?

It’s embarrassing how easy it has become to fleece the average American.

Well, I guess if the keepers-of-Montana-cash decide it should be spent on parties, so be it.  But I don’t want to hear any whining about how we “can’t afford teachers or firemen.”

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Money !  It’s a gas!
Grab that cash with both hands
and make a stash!

Money – Pink Floyd

13 Comments

  1. Great Post

    Glad you pointed out another in the long list of things we waste our tax dollars on

  2. Right on Tom! Where will all this end? Education Lady, Helena

  3. You should have pointed out that money for this program comes from the Accommodations Tax, paid by people who stay in hotels and motels, and is dedicated for tourism promotion. That doesn’t mean you have to like it, but it is information your readers should have.

    From your description of the newspaper headline, it also sounds as if that ran as a news story, not as paid advertising. Your readers also should know that.

    • Agreed, David, the money does come from taxes. Not general fund taxes, but taxes just the same – I believe in leaving as much money in the private sector as possible, eliminating the overhead of the “middle man”.

      The item in the Lewistown paper was a news article, submitted by the MT Dept. of Commerce, and gratefully accepted to fill column-inches. The purpose was clearly to advertise the availability of the funds and promote their use, although it was not a paid “advertisement”.

      Thanks for reading and for your observations.

  4. Over the years, money from the program has been used to stabilize the interior of Chief Plenty Coups’ house, reconstruct Fort Benton, replace a roof at the Old Montana Prison, renovate the amphitheater at Makoshika State Park and buy a new touring van for Montana Shakespeare in the Parks. Hard to imagine the private sector doing many of these projects. Under your plan, our museums and historic buildings would rapidly disappear.

    • David, you said “under your plan our museums and historic buildings would rapidly disappear.” Some might, but other charities might blossom. As a responsible conservative I would CONTINUE TO support the charities and causes that are important to me and my family, as would others. I have been a generous donor to Shakespeare in the Park. I have not contributed to the Old Montana Prison, because I have never been there and have no interest in its preservation, but I’m sure you and other people who use and enjoy the facility would support it, right?

      Now, if some of those museums, historic buildings, and other charities were to disappear, wouldn’t you say it was due to lack of public interest and support? And if a charity dies for lack of public interest and support, isn’t that the normal order of things?

      The state and federal Constitutions do not allow the governments to arbitrarily confiscate and spend our families’ hard earned money on non-essential stuff. The government does not have the right to “pick and choose” which charities we want to support. But it does anyway, and that’s one of the reasons why we are $15 trillion in debt, or worse. And that’s why charity giving continues to decline.

      I believe extorting money from every person who uses a hotel to support someone else’s favorite charity is just plain wrong.

      Thanks for the discussion.

      • I don’t believe any of the projects I mentioned are charities, so I don’t see how that argument applies. I have never seen the Old Montana Prison, but I might someday, and I don’t want it to fall down before that happens.

        Most of the items I mentioned were state-owned property. Do you believe the state has a legitimate interest in using tax dollars to repair and maintain state property? Or would you sell off state parks and buildings?

      • First, David – we are off-topic. You are talking about museums and state parks, and my blog was a tongue-in-cheek shot at grants for “parties”, using as an example the “Special Events Grant Program”. The events are actually fairly narrowly defined according to the SEGP Overview.. You had said that this program funded repairs to the old prison roof, and other projects, which is not accurate, and specifically prohibted by the Program.

        Still, I view the projects you describe as charities. Any time you give your money to something that does not in any way serve the needs of yourself and your family, it is charity – by definition. You might particularly like a certain cause, and are happy to support it, so you don’t call that charity. The same cause might serve me no purpose at all. To me it is unnecessary, hence charity. Are taxes required for roads? Military? Schools? Absolutely. Museums? Nice, but not necessary. Should be funded by the people who use them.

        David, look at it this way: I love guitars. I think you should pay an extra $10 every time you stay at a hotel in Montana, to support the “Old Guitar Museum” out here in Forest Grove (ficticious). Do you see my point? If you don’t like guitars, why should you take $10 out of your children’s college fund and put it in my favorite museum?

        Most citizens are happy to support national parks, museums of broad interest, etc. And tourism does help the economy. But where do we draw the line? At what point do we hold back on spending our children’s and grandchildren’s money? Don’t forget we are borrowing every dollar our government spends right now and are in serious fiscal doo doo. I have a feeling you will defend Montana spending as being separate from the federal mess, but it really is connected when you consider that the majority of our budget comes from the feds, and every tax dollar (regardless of entity) reduces personal wealth.

        If you read my original blog again, you will see that what I really object to is the deceptive way that public money is distributed and spent, mainly through these grants. Many citizens really do think that grants are a good thing, even if spent on frivolous stuff, because they can’t relate them directly to their own family budgets. And unfortunately, half of all citizens pay no state or federal income tax, so they selfishly think that any government spending is perfectly fine (short-sighted and dangerous).

        I, for one, don’t think it’s fair that we are borrowing and spending money that our grandkids will have to repay. I would like them to have a chance at a better standard of living, not worse.

        Thanks for the discussion.

  5. You are right; I confused this with the news release I recently got for the Tourism Infrastructure Investment Program, which is run by the same office and also uses Accommodation Tax funds. But it sounds as if the arguments are about the same in either case.

    To answer your specific question, I have no particular interest in your guitar museum, but I do generally support the idea that it’s OK to use tax dollars in some instances to support educational and preservation efforts. The founders clearly understood the importance of education in the arts and sciences for a self-governing people, and the Library of Congress and Smithsonian Institution both have long and honorable histories and substantial government support.

    The fact that some tax dollars may be spent on projects that I don’t like or care about doesn’t bother me much, as long as the process is reasonably open, fair and transparent. You seem to think this process is deceptive, but I don’t see how that’s true. Opportunities to apply are publicly announced; applicants are required to put up matching funds; winners and losers are clearly posted.

    It isn’t true, by the way, that we are borrowing every dollar we spend. Some tax revenues are still coming in. And it is hard to see how these programs add to the deficit, since their expenses are limited to the revenues that their dedicated taxes bring in.

    So should I gather from your comments that you oppose tax dollars going to Yellowstone National Park?

    • His point is many have deceived themselves into thinking the grant monies are free because they don’t come out of the local entities’ budgets. It actually comes out of everybody’s pocket and something should be done. Tax dollars are collected but our spending exceeds what comes in. This can’t continue; there will be a straw that breaks the camel’s back. Are there projects that need and deserve funding? Almost everyone will agree there are. It is overally apparent there are too many grants and frivolous ways to spend them. If I don’t have the money I don’t go to the movie. The government goes anyway and pays everybody else’s ticket. “We gotta stop the madness”, the sooner the better.

  6. Aren’t you making a case for the accommodations tax? It’s only paid by people who stay in hotels and motels, it can only be spent on certain kinds of things, and spending of those tax dollars cannot exceed revenues. If we agree that some taxes are needed, then what could be better?

    • Assuming you are referring to my posts –

      Thank you David, you made my point perfectly. Many believe that taxing other people, without their consent, and often without their getting any benefit from the expense, “couldn’t be better!”

      That is exactly what’s wrong with our government these days. Everyone thinks somebody else is paying for all the “goodies”, and has no conscience about spending someone else’s money that they could use for their own family’s security and well-being. As long as “someone else” is paying the tab, people are happy.

      That, my friend, is just sad, and I agree with Terry – it has to change, and now – before it’s too late.

  7. David, I pay plenty of accomodations tax when I travel the state – probably 20 – 25 hotel stays per year. I never consented to this tax, nor did any tourist. It may, in fact, be a deterrent to tourism. You, yourself, said “If they don’t like paying the tax, they don’t have to come here.” Maybe they won’t.

    Re: Yellowstone, the public investment in that federal operation must be maintained. Unfortunately, if the dollar is no longer the international reserve currency, and our economy collapses, even Yogi Bear will not have any pik-a-nik baskets!

    Thanks for your comment.


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