The highlight of this week’s proceedings was the traditional State of the State address delivered by our new governor, Steve Bullock. His address was followed by the response delivered by Rep. Austin Knudsen from Culbertson.
Legislators from both parties, including me, listened carefully and respectfully to both speeches. As a frequent judge at high school speech meets, I would give both high marks for delivery and message.
I believe that Gov. Bullock succeeded in offering a positive way forward for Montana, growing jobs, improving education, and building on the great foundations and achievements of earlier generations of Montanans.
For those of us from north-central Montana, his support for Montana State University-Northern and the proposed auto-diesel building on our campus was particularly gratifying. I got the sense that most legislators are willing to work with the new governor as we fill in the blanks and settle the details during the session.
I found little to fault in Rep. Austin Knudsen’s remarks. Like the governor’s speech, this one included many of the lofty goals and aspirations we all share as Montanans. Again, the measure of this legislative session will be how we deal with the details. Rep. Knudsen suggested that his party favors reducing taxes for all Montana taxpayers. I take him at his word on this.
However, the tax relief measure that seems to have the most legs this session, a reduction in the business equipment tax, will benefit only a few thousand taxpayers. That might seem impressive until we consider that those reductions shift the burden to income taxpayers who number in the hundreds of thousands and to the owners of residential, commercial and agricultural real property, again hundreds of thousands of taxpayers. While the “business equipment” tax has been described as the most hated tax, those of us on the Senate Taxation Committee, struggling with the property reappraisal process, understand the tax Montanans truly hate is one on residential property. Other legislators need to reach the same understanding.
As always, I’m interested in listening to your thoughts and ideas on the legislative process. Your input ensures that citizens continue to run our democracy. Please email me online at http://leg.mt.gov/message/, call me at 444-4800 or write me at Montana State Senate, PO Box 200500, Helena, MT 59620.
Thanks for reading — until next time.
(State Sen. Greg Jergeson, D-Chinook, represents Senate District 17, which includes northern Hill and Blaine counties. During his 31 years of service as a state senator and public service commissioner, Jergeson has served North Central and North Eastern Montana, including Liberty, Hill, Choteau and Blaine counties. He’ll be sending a weekly “Hello from Helena” update to keep the Hi-Line informed.)