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April 17, 2019     Sidney Herald
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April 17, 2019

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6A SUNDAY, MARCH 10, 2019 Editorial It’s hiflh time mmehs for an answer In 1947 thou- sands of WW II veterans eligible for GI. Bill higher education benefits were overwhelm- ing the University System. The feeling in Mon- tana and the rest of the country was that nobody was entitled to a living, but that everybody should be entitled to a fair chance to earn one. Educa- tion makes oppor- View oim tunity possible. Those who benefit p from it can take advantage of opportunities, .. and create them for others. Those I _ .-- without an educa- 30b Brown tion are often left ‘f‘ "it behind. This, in today’s increasingly technical world, is even truer than it was in 1947. Then when the state of Montana faced the critical need to open educa- tional opportunity to our veterans, the frustrating mm problem was that the 1889 Montana Constitution limited the legislature to a levy on property only up to 1 l/z‘mms- The need was far greateh Politicians in Helena need to un- Fortunately, a creative solution was proposed by a derstahd that good intentions and state legislator with a reputation as a smart, original well wishes don’t count for much thinker. I knew him. Even in his very late years, When their decisions cause harm former Missoula Republican State Representative t0 Montanans. Winfield Emerson Page was strikingly bright and a Montanans are aware of the (E0, MONTANA POUCY INSTITUTE t tax Montanans’ cabinets ’lust as we see with all taxes, the intended targets are never the ones actually SIDNEY HERALD also puts Montana’s taxpayers in the crosshairs of an opioid tax. What this tax does not do, however, is penalize illegal drugs and hold criminals accountable. Increasingly, illicit drugs like heroin, fentanyl, and synthetic footing the bill. It’s normally opioids have become leading kill- ers in our state. These products delightful storyteller. It was he who proposed the damage the 0 - ' - ’ , plOld epidemic has ’ are unregulated, highly-addictive, Idea 0f Plaolng a levy 0t o'nnhs on the 1948 Statemde caused to families, friends, and the consumers and easily accessible through the general eleCtlon ballot to _make Way_ for the GIS- He our communities. The state has extensive drug trafficking net- added a 10'Year termmatlon WOT/131011 based on the taken many commendable steps to 3"“, Mod works that get these substances possibility that the wave of new students would have combat opioid addiction. However, subSIded, by 1958- , , the need to fight opioid abuse does It didn t. For one thing, the Korean War quickly not excuse bad policy making. brought another wave of veterans. So the temporary Montana Policy Institute across our borders from Canada and Mexico. Taxing the healthcare industry, (‘rmfll levy was passed to the people again in 1958. Next came the influx of “war babies.” Over the years, the legislature began essentially counting on the rev- enue from the six-mills in determining the University System budget without making the levy permanent. Helena politicians are work- ing on proposal to impose a new tax on prescription medication in order to address the opioid epidemic. This tax, if passed, will have far reaching consequences The revenue thus generated made balancing the over- for patientS and taxpayers_ all budget easier, but unlike all other state agencies, the university system was singled out to continually go to the electorate to raise the money. Most states occasionally place proposals for new taxes on their election ballots. But Montana, unlike the rest of the country, funds a permanent part of its government by an over-and—over-again vote by the people on the same tax. The 6-mill levy was a legislative response to a WW II era crisis. For how long is there a logical rationale for that levy to continue to be voted on? For eter- nity? It has been decisively approved by the people of Montana seven straight times by three generations of voters. Thereare, no doubt, Montanans among us who voted for the original levy in 1948. They are the ones who will be at least 102 if we vote on it again. It’s high time for the legislature to take “yes” for Infrastructure is a long-term investment in It will increase the costs to patients for necessary medica- tion. It will increase the costs of certain opioid addiction treat- ments. It will set an unfortunate and unacceptable precedent — that the State of Montana will tax you based on what medications you take. What this tax will not do is further a responsible and coordinated response to the opioid crisis. Disruption, increased costs, lim- ited access to care —— these are just a few of the negative outcomes a tax on our healthcare supply chain could invite. Lawmakers will claim that this legislation is targeting big PhRMA ——- drug manufacturers — making them pay to stop the pain and suffering felt by the opioid epidemic. That is false. Just as we see with all taxes, the intended targets are never the ones actually footing the bill. It’s normally the consumers. In this case, those consumers are patients struggling with chronic pain that makes everyday tasks difficult unless they have access to pain management. To absorb the costs of this tax, patients could see insurance premiums increase and the cost of prescription medications sky- rocket even higher. In a state with the 49th lowest take-home pay and an unstable health insurance market, Montana’s patients can- not afford additional healthcare costs. They’re already making significant sacrifices to pay for their treatment and care. The proper way to hold the health care industry account- ' able—— whether it is drug manu- facturers or providers over-pre- scribing opioids — is to enforce consumer protection laws and ensure best practices are being followed by doctors and hospitals. Punitive taxes on patients’ medi- cation is a misguided tool that will only harm Montanans who are already struggling. Equally as concerning; a large portion of our state’s patients rely on Medicaid for health insurance. In fact, Medicaid makes up 17.9 percent of the state budget. This patients, and taxpayers is not going to reduce the number of illicit drugs being pumped onto our streets. We must shift our legislative priorities and focus on solutions that help those Montan- ans who need pain management while reducing the risks of opioid addiction. Placing a regressive tax on medication falls short of that goal. Instead of increasing taxes on patients, policymakers could prioritize a response to opioid ad- diction within the existing House Bill 2 budget. A coordinated, pri- oritized response would attempt to reduce barriers to treatment for those who need it while not erect- ing any new barriers for patients p with legitimate pain needs. , t ' We all hope that one day opioid medications will be a treatment of the past, and legitimate'patients will be able to seek other avenues of care. Until then, we cannot pe- nalize those who utilize opioids to manage severe, unbearable pain . by further burdening them with tax increases on their medicine. Brent Mead is the CEO of the Montana Policy Institute Does FCC understand scope of broadband gap? or man ZOUIIKOV challenge is having an census block has broad- data indicate that only M o n t n s u I u r e 5mg prkfsmmvg accurate scope of the band access, then it is about 319,000 Montanans , problem. However, the assumed that everyone are accessing the Inter- Poncymakers at the data we are relying on in the census block has net at broadband speeds. State and federal level today may not be serving access. That would indicate " “'- m" ""o' have been workmg for us well. This methodology is a that only 40 percent of MONTANMEGISIATOR Years to Improve aeeess The FCC releases somewhatcrude mea- Montanans who have gglhg‘gsaghghggfiltflg an annual Broadband sure. In rural areas, cen- access to broadband are - - - , De lo ent Re rt, sus blocks can be very actually using it. . Inggatsfigurft‘ttre 151a ggvggiagggltflggsfippen'e a dnnemt Proolem, , th'ichinIIilcludesIaostate- geographically large, A county-level analy- gtgk about ofiggté: infrastructure in {he “2311211181 espeelahy 1n States with by-state assessment of and broadband could ‘sis shOws even starker Le i 81 am 8 it usuan means bi mone and bi Predomtnately rural broadband access. The. be available to some disparities. For ex- prgblems ’ y g y‘ g povlt’ltl‘I-tfiéltl’nntimet ser 2018 report i‘howed that Eifsicliieigtstof ati parafular $51813, :ccording to tthte ' - - ' 77 rcent o Montanans . oc , u no to o ers. a a, 99 ercen o Durmg. the last three .leglslatwe sessmns’ the Mom Vice ProViderS (ISPS) haclliiccess to broadband Even in urban areas, it’s residents of lgark County tam Legislaturehas faded to pass a chPrehenilve in Montana have made Internet. likely that many Mon- - have broadband access. “fir-astm-cmre hm that meludes funding for crmcal large inveetments in The report further tanans are clasSified as But Microsoft’s usage pro-teas m .every corner of our State' H S not because Wilding oat broadband broke down the data “covered” when they are analysis shows that modems bemg yroposed a-re mt Important’ oi. that the infraStruetdrev and have between urban and actually not. In short only 19 percent of those legflat‘fis do? have.“ InterEStth? hfiYe 51mph, . succeeded in PrOViding rural areas, showing the FCC’s data underesti- residents using broad- lac edt epomicalwfll to do file mg tt mg When It access to many rural , broadband access for 92 mates the severity of the band. Meagher County comes to mvestmg m Montana futuref Montanans, we are Shh percent of urban and 59 broadband gap. is another example—the For every year that the Montage Leglslature has a long way off from percent of rural Montan- A new study from FCC estimates 97 percent fafled to ad" our home cqmmumtles haw? suffered aehie‘dng the Federal ans underscoring the Microsoft gives an idea have broadband access, even.m°re' Roads and bndges fate badly m need of Communications com' urban-rural divide when of the degree of the but only 11 percent repalr’ and create unsafe commons as Montanans miseion's (FCC’S) Stated it comes to broadband FCC’s error. Rather access the Internet at travel to “éork or home eacilbdaidltd. h af goal 0f ehnnnating the Connectivity. than looking at which broadband speeds. u 0:13;: fimsggd fixing S Cfiggivggnws “1:2; cub rural broadband gaP- The importance of the households could have There is no doubt that pg ' 00 y . ISPS in Montana have FCC’s broadband deploy- access to broadband, this measuring broadband Fem. fin: Ogdes’ gm other? hf‘t’: hid them rfisfifi: made huge mveStmentS ment report cannot be report quantified which access is a difficult task. figfieierfufky :hvztzlfo 039 h :8 &:¥::&_;et tn brlnglng oonneetw' overstated. This data is ones actually access the The current FCC did not R ' 1 t d t th m. b1' (1 lty t0 undereerved rural used to help allocate pub- Internet at broadband create this problem—- um wa “Ways an sewer Sys ems’ .6 e. 00 areas- They ve Spent lic funds and gives ISPs speeds. this methodology was 0f.°.ur commumues’ can no longer fungthn wnhout more than $250 million direction on where their For comparison’s sake passed to the Comm Cr “10.211 uplgrades t0 ensure that 0“; drmkmfi watfir on broadband infrasn‘uo‘ efforts are needed. overall the FCC’s 2018 sion from previous ad- remams.c ean and uncontammate ' Lama ers ave ture 1n the IaSt decade, Unfortunately, there is deployment report esti- ministrations. Hewever, egreegu?%afihtaline aggm that the? proigqs at? and have brought broad' evidence to suggest this mated that about 803,000 with better technological 11112:; S a; ding {getigfiedégglryfiggnlnnfm it; . band to an 0f Montana’s data is inaccurate. The Montanans have access capabilities, it’s time for our Mrastructure rural sehools- Montana FCC’s current methodol- to broadband Internet. the FCC to update this . . ISPSare the front'hne ogy to assess broadband However, Microsoft’s process. Infrastructure protects represent long term mvest- soldters addressmg fins access is to survey ISPS ments in Montana’s economic prosperlty down the issue _ but they need to determine if any - o road, and these investments come with big returns. help to continue to build individual or business F I Every donar that we Spend today W111 Pay dWldendS the infrastructure to within a particular cen. .. . . , , . . .. . ,. 1n the future, and refusal to invest now, only hurts serve more Montanans. sus block has broadband '3' . .. . , , .. .. . . ,_ , future generatlons of Montanans and thelr opportu- One of the first steps access If anyone in that For years news organizations have relied upon an nities for success. Democrats in the Montana Legislature are as com- mitted as ever to ensuring that this important work gets done. That’s why Democrats are working across the aisle tonnally bring something home this year. We already have a great start with a bipartisan bill that passed out of committee to fund infrastructure projects across the state. It’s time that legislators come together and start having the tough conversations about what invest- ments need to be made, and how to pay for them. At the end of the day, it shouldn’t be about who gets the credit. It should be about getting something done. I. in addressing a complex .,§7ihnrg 3112mm SERVING THE MONDAK REGION SINCE I908 «.in m, mm on vm Woolo, Editor organization called the Montana Freedom of Infor- mation Hotline to provide legal advice and assistance when confronted with closed or improperly adver- tised meetings or a sealed documents. The service also is available to individual citizens who believe they, too, are being kept in the dark. You can reach the Hotline through its website, http://wwwmontanafoiorg/ , or by calling thelMeloy Law Firm at (406) 442-8670. Tax deductible donations to the Hotline may be made through the website. t ' You can also read more about the Hotline at https:// .