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The 2007 Montana Legislature and Business. Is Montana "Open for Business"

June 6, 2007View for printing

With the legislative session in the history books, let’s take a moment to see how the business community fared. A few positive changes were made for economic development. However, this last legislative session featured a strong, constant onslaught on business that tarnishes our state’s reputation.

The business community was able to defeat many anti-business proposals from the Montana Department of Revenue (DOR). Under the guise of going after “out-of-state tax cheaters,” the DOR’s legislation would have negatively impacted all businesses in our state, not just tax cheaters. Montana should vigorously pursue known tax cheaters, but not at the expense of law-abiding taxpayers.

If passed, the DOR’s bills would have lengthened the corporate tax statute of limitations on Montana businesses, forced Montana businesses to do the tax-collecting work of the DOR, and raised taxes on businesses in Montana.

Additionally, Montana businesses will see next to nothing in tax relief coming out of the state’s billion dollar general fund surplus. In fact, the administration and several legislators opposed business equipment tax relief because the state could not “pay for” the relief unless it raised revenue elsewhere. If you consider that increased business activity was the primary reason for the surplus in the first place, it is sad to find out that almost nothing will be coming back to encourage growth.

Just saying that our state is “Open for Business” is hollow when businesses are constantly playing defense in Helena. If we are interested in long-term, sustainable growth we have to send a clearer message welcoming business and investment in our state.

Russ Spika is a practicing CPA in Lewistown and Chairman of the Montana Chamber of Commerce
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