Montana Policy Institute Newsletter

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Volume I Issue IV September 2008
Greetings!
This month's newsletter is a call to arms.  Over the next couple of months our ideas will be turning into products and action.  We're looking to get Montanans who are interested in freedom, responsibility, and limited government together so that our voices can be heard and we can make a difference.  Take a look at our project updates and action agenda to see where you fit in.  And also remember to check out our web site over the next couple of weeks.  You're going to see some significant changes there as we build a liberty community in the state.  It's all meant to stop the steamroll towards more government, less freedom, and less prosperity for Montanans.
From the President's Desk...

  Well things are picking up as we get ready to kick off some of our major projects this fall.  We've spent most of this year just trying to get the business end of MPI running, raising funds for our projects, and getting the word out about who we are.  And now it's time to get some things done.
 
I can't tell you how many times I've been sitting at a kitchen table or talking to a group and heard some variant of  "I'm tired of think tanks that do nothing but think.  We need action and ideas to get things done."  Well, we've laid some groundwork and are on the cusp of getting things done.  Here are a few examples:
 
   MPI Community Web Site: We're within days of launching a new web site that's designed to be the meeting place for Montana's liberty movement, with blogs, regular news updates, information on programs, and more.  Organization and focus are key to getting things done.  We want to provide a place where like-minded people can work together to protect our freedoms;
 
   Government Accountability Project: We've completed our government transparency stakeholder survey and found, for example, that:
     99% of respondents want to see detailed expenditure categories by program and agency,
     Over 90% of respondents want to see contractor, state employee, and service provider compensation,
     78% want to see copies of state contracts, and 91% want collective bargaining agreements easily available;
 
 School's Open: We'll be launching a web site this fall with school spending and revenue information that includes revenue streams, administrative, operations, and capital costs, and compensation;

  Tax and Budget Reform: Our studies will clearly demonstrate the benefits and potential means of reforming our tax and budget processes to ensure tax dollars are being spent as they were intended, and that government growth rates are subject to the same constraints as our household budgets;

 Legislators' Forum: We'll be hosting a forum in Helena with national speakers on transparency, accountability, free enterprise, tax and budget reform, property rights, and more to give our legislators the tools they need to protect our rights and our wallets;

 Investigative Reporter: We'll be looking for cases of waste, abuse of power, and other excesses and reporting them throughout the state.  If you know of a story that needs to get out let us know and our reporter will look into it.
 
I also want to put out a personal appeal for those of you who think this freedom, responsibility, and limited government stuff is important.  MPI has bills to pay like any business, but we also need expertise to get through the very labyrinth of government regulation we'd like to curtail.  We often need law advice to ensure we don't endanger our tax exempt status.  We also require periodic accounting advice.  If you're able and want to help us to stop the nanny state trend in Montana please let me know.  Help us to put meaningful ideas into the policy debate.  We can't, and probably shouldn't, do this without the support of Montanans like you.
Quick Facts 
 National increase in state and local spending since 1965 (inflation adjusted): 156%
 
Increase in Federal spending since 1965 (inflation adjusted): 115%
 
Number of days Montanans have worked for government (all levels, taxes and cost of regulation) in 2008: 182
 
Day Montanans started working for themselves: July 1st
Project Updates
  MPI wants to help create the environment for a more transparent and accountable government, one that excels at its core functions, but one that allows its citizens to enjoy their freedoms and successes as well.  We'll do this by looking at tax and budget issues, but our primary focus will be on transparency and accountability.
  Every April 15th you open your books up for the government and pay your taxes.  Shouldn't the government's books be open to you as well?  We think so, and we're backing that up with a Transparency Project designed to result in a Google-type web site where you can search for budget, revenue, and spending information the same way you look for a favorite recipe or the latest news.
  Several states have already done this.  So far there have been 12 bills passed and five executive orders mandating web sites where citizens can track their tax dollars.  Here are just a few:
 
And here's a great example of a privately built and maintained web site that tracks state spending:
 
 
  Now, we don't have the resources to build a site like that one, and none of even the states' sites is perfect.  But they're on the right track...and they're more than we have in Montana.  Imagine being able to search by key word, contract number, recipient, revenue source, or virtually any other variable.  That's what we'd like to see, and you're going to be seeing a lot more about it as the fall and winter wears on.
  We reached a major milestone in this recently with our stakeholder survey.  What we found was that  people are very interested in having access to contracts and to spending information right down to the individual expenditure level.  In other words, people don't want to know what agency their money went to, they want to know what their money was spent on.  We couldn't do that in the days of paper ledgers and green eyeshades, but there's no excuse with today's technology for not telling people where their money goes and what's being done in their name.  After all, it's your money; shouldn't you see where it goes?
They Said it Best
 
  Ronald Reagan
Politics is supposed to be the second oldest profession.  I have come to realize that it bears a very close resemblance to the first.

 Ayn Rand
Whoever claims the right to redistribute the wealth produced by others is claiming the right to treat human beings as chattel.

 Thomas Jefferson
I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it.
  And finally, we're doing some good work and we will make a difference in Montana but we need your help.  Good ideas don't become good policy without the active support of people like you!  Join MPI and receive regular updates on our projects and on the status of State Government.
  Since we do not seek or accept any government funding, our work relies solely on the support of foundations, businesses, and people like you who share our concern for the direction Montana is taking, and who realize the value of placing sound ideas into the policy debate.
  Make your voice a voice for liberty and join MPIBecause Liberty makes all the difference in the world.
Sincerely,
 
Carl Graham
Montana Policy Institute
In This Issue
From the President
Quick Facts
Policy Updates
They Said it Best
About MPI
MPI Happenings
About MPI
   The Montana Policy Institute (MPI) is a free market think tank focused solely on Montana issues.  We provide credible nonpartisan expertise and analysis to help Montanans advocate for policies that are based on a respect for liberty, an expectation of responsibility, and state and local government accountability.
 To find out more, visit us at:
www.montanapolicy.org
MPI Happenings
 
September 18th.  Billings Meet-Up.  We had a nice meeting at Perkins to meet some folks and talk about Montana's free market environment.  Thanks to those who stopped by!

October 22nd. Bozeman Meet-up.  More to follow for our members in the Bozeman area, but we'll be getting together in Bozeman to catch up on MPI programs and  meet like-minded people in the Gallatin Valley.  Save an hour at noon and watch your email for location.

November 11th. MPI will partner with CATO, Americans for Tax Reform, PERC, and other organizations to host a legislators forum in Helena.  We'll provide programs and expert forums on tax and budget reform, government transparency and accountability, and more.  Much more to follow!
Partners and Friends
 
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