Letter: Protect taxpayers from speculators – Billings Gazette, April 9, 2017

The Legislature is struggling to come up with a state budget, some saying that revenues are not there to fund many government responsibilities. This means that programs to support children, the elderly, the sick, our public libraries, our schools and many other services that Montanans rely on could be cut. But, at the same time, some of these same legislators believe they need to pass SB235, which would allow corporations to indefinitely lock up public resources without paying their fair share back to the state.

Currently, if a company leases state taxpayer-owned coal, it has 10 years to start digging or give up the lease. This prevents speculation with our public lands and minerals.

SB235 would change that, allowing the Land Board to indefinitely extend non-producing leases. This would promote speculation with taxpayer resources with little to no payback to the state’s coffers. That’s a poor practice any way you cut it, particularly when budgets are tight and we need to manage our resources wisely.

Let’s quit giving high-rolling corporations advantages over hard-working Montanans. Tell your state legislator to vote no on SB235, and tell Gov. Bullock to veto SB235 if it gets to his desk.

Beth Kaeding