Montanans Against Higher Taxes is a registered political ballot issue committee created to oppose the $200+ million property tax increase on the Nov 2018 ballot (LR 128).
We believe that Higher Education spending has become out-of-control as everyday Montanans struggle financially with rising costs of living and low wages. When Montana ranks 47th in wages nationally they should not have to subsidize a university system of flat in-state enrollment, large amounts of debt and ever-increasing spending.
University enrollment of in-state students has been flat or falling across the 14 campuses in the state, while out-of-state enrollment climbs dramatically to make up for increased spending.
College students at some campuses enjoy perks like pool parties, DJs, raves, climbing walls, racquetball courts etc. and can even ski for college credit. Less than half of every dollar contributed by state taxpayers actually goes toward education, with the rest covering salaries, benefits, activities etc.
Vote NO on LR-128 in Nov. 2018 to give yourself and your neighbors a $200 million tax cut and make the Montana University System live within its means.
In 2015 Jon Krakauer's book "Missoula: Rape and Justice in a College Town" was released, detailing how the city of Missoula and University of Montana failed to adequately address the sexual assaults of students and young women in Missoula.
At one point following the alleged sexual assaults of 2 students, university officials failed to notify police, allowing a suspected rapist to fly back to his home country of Saudi Arabia. Grizzly running back Beau Donaldson was convicted of rape amid a flurry of arrests of university football players.
It should not take federal investigations of the University System to protect women attending college. Royce Engstrom, the university president who oversaw the campus at the time of the alleged assaults, now makes over $116,000 a year to teach ONE introductory chemistry course. Another Vice President at UM even tried to punish a female student for speaking out about her own rape.
As long as university officials remain in high-paid positions while young women were actively discriminated against, Montanans should withhold their financial support for these institutions.
Bozeman and Missoula are currently the most expensive places for low and middle income Montanans to try and afford modest housing.
With a larger contingent of out-of-state dollars and students with large student loan borrowing abilities, local people have a hard time competing with the prices charged in the University rental markets.
This has only caused rental prices to climb higher and higher, and also distorted the local wage bases since college students no longer need to work while they're in school.
From higher wages needed to be paid by local businesses passed onto local consumers to the ever climbing rents, the University system's reliance on out of state and Federal loan dollars has had a huge negative economic impact on lower and middle income Montanans.
Additionally, the rising home prices in these areas result in higher taxes for seniors and those on fixed incomes when the values of their homes become reappraised at higher values each year.
When looking at the huge increases in student loan debt, it can almost exactly be traced back to the creation of the Federal Student Loan program, which gives anyone with a pulse $55,000 in loans to go to college. In Montana, the average graduate carries around $30k in student loans upon graduation.
Because of pay discrepancies and what fields the genders generally go into after graduation, women now carry almost 70% of student loan debt.
This large amount of debt cannot be discharged in bankruptcy, causes many to postpone life achievements like home ownership, and has even been compared to a modern form of indentured servitude.
Despite this, colleges still heavily utilize Federal loans and encourage borrowing to pay for school with promises of higher wages upon graduation.
If the Montana University System doesn't care about the debt it's piling on students and women in particular to pay for its huge spending increases, then taxpayers should no longer subsidize this fiscal irresponsibility.
In the past 20 years enrollment at Montana Universities by state residents has been almost completely flat or declining, yet spending has increased between 4% and 7% almost every year. Between 2000 and 2017 the Montana Legislature has appropriated an additional $70 million per year, while the Montana University System budget has increased by almost $260 million per year.
In addition, the University has taken on more and more debt for projects like renovations, workout centers, administration space and new instructional buildings.
When most Montanans have been tightening their belts and even generously increased state spending, the University System has responded by spending even more!
The Montana University System has not been a supporter of the 1st or 2nd Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.
In October 2017, the Dean of the University of Montana Journalism school disinvited a conservative Free Speech lecturer for fear he would "offend" students.
The Montana University System has also fought actively against students exercising their 2nd Amendment rights while living and going to school on state campuses. University officials and politicians have referred to students as "hormonal" and "unstable" when justifying prohibition against even military veterans being allowed to possess firearms.
MSU - Bozeman recently took the extraordinary step of requiring students to turn in their firearms to the local campus police, despite years of allowing students to previously store firearms in secured locations in most dormitories.
Over the past few decades, enrollment in the Montana University System by state residents has been flat or declining at all 14 campuses. While University System budgets have exploded, almost all growth in state University enrollment has come from out-of-state residents, graduate students and students receiving tuition waivers.
It is no coincidence that a Washington D.C. lobbying firm has already been hired to convince Montanans to raise their own taxes.
Corporations like Glacier Bancorp and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Montana have already filed paperwork and promised to spend $1.5 million in 2018. What do they have to gain?
The University System employs thousands of workers who have great pensions, hours, benefits, time off, sick leave etc. For insurance companies, pension managers, banks, etc there is millions to be made by maintaining better pay and benefits for University employees.
Banks and contractors also make millions off bonding projects, fees and construction. In Bozeman a local contractor even threatened to donate huge sums to politicians who would not agree to borrow money to continue large scale construction projects they would profit from.
The University is big business with everyone from banks to insurance companies to corporations getting rich, all from the wallets of state taxpayers and students.