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Guest column: Tax Reform at the Legislature

by Greg Hertz
| February 18, 2021 12:35 AM

After 16 years of Democrat governors running state government, Montana is in serious need of tax reform to help Montana businesses create good-paying jobs and encourage investment and entrepreneurship in the Treasure State.

Our new governor, Greg Gianforte, is prioritizing updating and reforming Montana’s tax code under his Montana Comeback Plan. As vice chair of the Senate Tax Committee and a business owner myself, I’m proud to be sponsoring three bills that are key to leading the Montana comeback: Senate Bills 159, 181 and 182.

Senate Bill 159 will lower Montana’s top income tax rate from 6.9% to 6.75%, cutting taxes for everyone who makes more than $18,700 in taxable income, which is about half of all taxpayers. This tax reduction is a step in the right direction, making Montana’s tax rates more competitive with our neighboring states. In the longer term, it will work with other economic incentives to attract high-wage jobs to Montana.

Senate Bill 181 simplifies the factors used to determine what multi-state businesses owe in taxes, from three factors down to one. By making the amount of sales a company does in Montana the only factor, Amazon would pay more in Montana taxes than Murdochs, for example. If you can believe it, with the way things currently stand without SB 181, Murdochs pays more taxes here than Amazon.

The third bill I’m sponsoring, Senate Bill 182, creates a series of triggers in the state budget to automatically reduce taxes if various funds have sufficient money. SB 182 is about protecting taxpayers and providing a check on unnecessary government taxing and spending. If the state government has enough money to carry out its essential operations and programs created by the Legislature, it shouldn’t continue to tax Montanans.

These three bills are just the ones that I’m sponsoring. Gov. Gianforte’s tax reform package also includes the “Montana Entrepreneur Magnet Act,” designed to help create good-paying jobs by providing financial incentives for companies to start and grow in Montana; another bill exempting an additional 4,000 businesses from the business equipment tax (including 1,500 small farms and ranches); and another to help employees gain skilled trades education and training.

These tax changes, along with other regulatory and policy reforms in the Montana Comeback Plan, will create more opportunities for Montanans to thrive and achieve the American dream right here in the Last Best Place.

You can contact me in Helena at greg.hertz@mtleg.gov or call me at 406-253-9505.

Montana Sen. Greg Hertz resides in Polson and represents Senate District 6.