Monday, April 22, 2024

Providing financial relief to Montanans

by Sen. Jason Ellsworth
| February 23, 2023 12:00 AM

Republicans’ number-one goal this legislative session has been to provide financial relief to Montanans struggling with Joe Biden’s inflation and the high cost of living. An early priority package of eight pieces of legislation is aimed at delivering on that mission. Together, these bills combine to immediately put money in Montanans’ pockets, provide long-term tax relief, and reduce taxpayer obligations into the future.

House Bills 192 and 222 return over $700 million of Montana’s historic budget surplus directly to taxpayers in the form of income tax rebates and property tax rebates, respectively. Taxpayers paid more to the state than the government needs or budgeted for, so it only makes sense to give Montanans their money back.

HB 192 provides one-time income tax rebates of up to $1,250 per individual or $2,500 for couples who filed taxes jointly, depending on how much income tax they paid in the first place. HB 222 provides property tax rebates of $500 in each of the next two years, for a total of $1,000 per household in property tax relief. It’s important to note that HB 222 only applies to primary residences, so we’re giving tax relief where it’s needed, not to out-of-staters with summer homes or short-term rental or commercial properties.

Senate Bill 121 saves Montanans money by lowering the state’s income tax rate that most Montanans pay from 6.5% to 5.9%. House Bill 212 raises the exemption on the state’s business equipment tax from $300,000 to $1 million, providing significant relief to small businesses and agricultural producers throughout the state.

House Bill 221 simplifies capital gains taxes and Senate Bill 124 simplifies corporate taxes. SB 124 is an interesting bill because it actually increases tax revenue a little bit while simultaneously reducing taxes on Montana-based businesses. It accomplishes that unique feat by putting Montana companies on an even playing field with major, out-of-state corporations like Amazon. Shockingly, every single Senate Democrat voted in favor of the big multinational corporations and against Montana businesses when they all voted against SB 124.

Finally, we have the bills that reduce taxpayer obligations well into the future. House Bill 251, which we’ve taken to calling the “Debt Free in 2023” bill, pays off $150 million of the state’s debt, saving taxpayers millions in interest payments and freeing up other state revenue for decades to come.

House Bill 267, the SAFER highways and bridges bill, invests $100 million towards infrastructure. In addition to the state’s investment, HB 267 allows Montana to access hundreds of millions more in federal funding for highways and bridges. The bill will cover our infrastructure needs without having to raise gas taxes for years to come.

This package of eight bills is nearing completion and will amount a massive early success of the 2023 legislative session. Republicans are providing significant financial relief to Montanans immediately and well into the future with this legislation.

Senator Jason Ellsworth, R-Hamilton, is the president of the Montana Senate.