By Ron VandenBoom
Karl Ohs, Republican candidate for Lt. Governor on the Judy Martz ticket, said during a swing through Havre recently that the special session of the Montana Legislature accomplished some pretty good things in a short period of time.
"Some of the things that we laid out in our JOBS (Jobs and Opportunities for a Better State) plan we were able to get done in that special session," he said.
He said the session had been able to give some tax breaks to the home owners by back-filling to the counties and school districts.
"Some of that money that they had lost with the vehicle reduction and part of the business equipment tax from the last (regular) session," Ohs said.
He noted that the session also passed the economic development package (HB 260) that had $13 million in it for research and development and for agricultural programs and cooperative extension programs.
Ohs noted that one of the best and most surprising things the session did was to use some of the coal tax money for an interest "buy down" program for businesses.
He said that as he travels around the state he has found a lot of interest in the program that should make it cheaper of businesses to barrow money.
Ohs said he is optimistic the business equipment tax is also on its way out saying it looks like the tax is going to hit the mandated triggers that will make it go away.
The business equipment tax was lowered by the last regular legislative session from six to three percent with gradual reductions continuing provided certain revenue goals were met.
"If those triggers are not met," Ohs said. "We will be looking hard at making it go away in the next regular session."
Ohs also takes a generally favorable view of the recent passage of a normalization of trade agreement with Red China, saying that Montana could benefit "more than any other state in the union" because of the agreement.
"We have to realize that we are in a global economy and anything we can do to make ourselves competitive and get a part of that world trade ... we have to be happy with," he said.
He added that it appears the Chinese have a great interest in doing business with us.
Ohs also favors the elk farm legislation that came out of the special session noting that it was the industry that encouraged the bill hoping to get some of the emotion out of the Chronic Wasting Disease issue.
"What they're saying is let's put a hold on new farms until we find what the science says,'" Ohs said.
Ohs said the Montana Wildlife Federation is trying to say it was just an attempt to skirt the initiative process. The Federation supports MADCOW's (Montanans Against the Domestication and Commercialization of Wildlife) initiative to ban elk farms, eliminate shooting preserves, and prohibit the transfer of licenses.
"I think it was a good faith attempt on the part of the producers to find out what it is we're dealing with," Ohs said.
Ohs noted that if the initiative gets on the ballot and passes it is really going to be hard on game farm owners.
"I hope the realness of the legislation will bring some realness to what we're talking about before it hurts a lot of producers," he said.
He added that the only reason producers got into the business in the first place was for survival and questions the motives behind why the MWF and MADCOW is pushing the CWD issue.
Answering his own question, Ohs explained that by tying their concerns to an emotional issue rather than science you can move things in the direction you want a lot quicker.
"And I think that's what were seeing," Ohs said.