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Guest column: You can testify at Helena from home

by By Greg Hertz for The Lake County Leader
| January 21, 2021 12:30 AM

As we finish up the second week of the legislative session it is not business as usual in Helena due to COVID-19. One of our first duties was to change our operating rules that allow the public and legislators to participate in person, via videoconference or telephone. This is our first session that opens up the door for the public to participate in the legislature from the convenience of their homes. You can go to www.leg.mt.gov to find more information on our legislative schedule. You are still welcome to come to Helena and discuss issues and testify in committee hearings.

The Capitol has been very quiet with about one-fourth of the normal crowds. We have had two legislators who have been diagnosed with COVID-19. Both of those members contracted the virus outside of Helena. Those members, along with close contacts, have been under quarantine and all are doing well with some already back at the Capitol.

Recently Gov. Gianforte has released his budget. As the governor had promised on the campaign trail, his budget holds the line on new spending and keeps our reserves strong. The budget focuses on opening Montana for business. This will include reducing our top tax rates and incentivizing new business to come to the Treasure State. Also proposed is elimination of the business equipment tax for 4,000 small businesses, property tax relief for low-income homeowners and providing incentives to local schools to raise starting teacher pay.

To help Montanans get back to work, credits will be established to train and educate existing and new workers.

A new part of the budget is $23.5 million per year to support community substance abuse and prevention programs helping protect our families and communities.

On a personal note, as vice chairman of the Senate Tax Committee I will be concentrating much of my time on tax-related bills including tax simplification, tax reduction along with property tax appraisal issues.

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.