Gazette opinion: Billings Welcomes Vice President Pence

May 12, 2017 GMT

Today we welcome Vice President Mike Pence to Billings. We’re honored you came to visit.

We know you’re here doing your part to help Greg Gianforte join you in Washington, D.C. But your work here with Gianforte is not the purpose of this editorial.

We want to take a moment to remind you (and our other elected leaders who serve us in D.C.) what is really important. Please continue to advocate for these large areas of this wonderful country that are generally regarded by our coastal brothers and sisters as fly-over zones. We have many issues that need attention.

First, we applaud the Trump administration’s appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the United States Supreme Court. We are glad to see a western states representative on the bench. While his appointment doesn’t guarantee favoritism, we believe his familiarity with land issues and government regulation will be seen from a similar perspective.

We don’t think Montana interests will be well served by trying to split the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. We can’t help but see this move as a blatant power grab by the Trump administration to pack a new court, and exact revenge for unfavorable rulings to the Trump administration. Montana has been well served by the Ninth. We have had great representation there, and would point out that Chief Judge Sidney Thomas is from Billings.

Montana supported Trump by a huge margin in the election. Remember that more than 71,000 Montanans may be cut off from health care if the Affordable Care Act is repealed — and thousands of those people voted for you. We have documented some of Obamacare’s problems, but we cannot believe the best way to change this is by leaving so many people without insurance. Remember that much of our economy in Billings is based on providing health care to Eastern Montana and Southern Wyoming. Eliminating Obamacare won’t just hurt citizens; it will affect our economy.

When your administration talks about repealing regulations, it has a nice ring to it. After all, who loves “government regulations”? No one. But here in Montana, we love our big (clear) skies and our clean water. Montana has had a checkered history when it comes to taking care of our environment. Places like Libby, Butte and Anaconda remain part of the federal Superfund program, and for many of our communities, regulations have been the only safeguard protecting those natural resources we love.

It may seem like the Russians and the FBI are issues that seem to matter only in Washington, D.C., but they matter in places like Montana, too. Please know that even though Russia is a long way from Montana, we need to know to what extent your colleagues in the administration have had a connection to the Russians. Montanans are good at face-to-face, handshake kinds of relationships. We just need to make sure that the face of the Trump administration doesn’t have the Russians in the background. And, if that is to happen, we want an independent investigation without interference from the political process.

Finally, we care deeply about the kind of Montana our children will inherit. In addition to clean air and water with abundant recreational opportunities, we worry that Congress continues to punt on the finances of our government. We continue to add to our debt and pass a budget piecemeal. For all that the Republican Party touts its business conservative bonafides, it refuses to exercise the same fiscal restraint when it comes to budgeting. Quit saddling our children and grandchildren with debt and reign in spending, namely on foreign military endeavors, and get back to supporting our veterans through their care in the Veterans Affairs system.

We hope you’ve had a great time in Montana, but for our sake, go back and tell the rest of the people in D.C. that it’s a miserable place. We’re happy to share the state, but we like believing we’ve got a secret no one else knows about.