Montana is in the midst of a severe budget crisis. If we look behind the numbers and dollar signs, there are real people: our neighbors, our loved ones, our kids.

Right now we are balancing the state budget on the backs of real people who simply cannot sacrifice anymore. It is time for legislators to find the political courage to vote for increased revenue.

We can all agree that it doesn’t take an ounce of courage to eliminate lifeline services for vulnerable children, seniors and people with disabilities. It is cruel and indefensible to cut the funding for instruction for blind children, for foster care programs, for childcare providers, for domestic violence shelters and the list goes on and on.

ASPEN provides direct support services to victims and survivors of domestic violence. ASPEN relies on funding from the Department of Public Health and Human Services for its emergency shelter. The clients we serve are in dire need of safety and often arrive with nothing but the clothes on their backs. Many times they bring children. ASPEN not only provides services for Park County but also for Meagher and Sweet Grass counties as well. The proposed cuts would mean ASPEN may not have the resources it needs to possibly save a life. This is unacceptable.

Raising revenue to prevent deep cuts was an option all along for our elected officials. We could have avoided millions of dollars’ worth of cuts – and we still can prevent the hundreds of millions dollars more.

Our state Legislature and governor need to return to revenue options like the tobacco tax, the alcohol tax, and straight up asking multi-national corporations to pay their fair share in Montana.

Heidi Barrett

Executive Director, ASPEN

Abuse Support & Prevention Education Network

Livingston