As Montanans prepare to enter what is sure to be a tough winter, the need for economic relief has never been clearer. In recent weeks, Montana’s COVID-19 case numbers have surged to new records.
On December 22nd, 2017, President Trump signed into law the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, putting in place permanent corporate tax cuts and temporary individual income tax cuts disproportionately benefiting wealthier households. In total, the law will result in a nearly $1.5 trillion increase to the federal deficit over ten years, likely forcing deep federal budgetary cuts in the near future.
In 1999, the legislature created a tax break for oil and gas companies that lowers the taxation of oil and gas production during the most profitable period of extraction. At the time, proponents of the tax break claimed that it would encourage economic development in Montana’s resource-rich areas, a claim unsupported by the facts. In reality, oil and gas companies operate where there is oil and do not base their decisions on state taxes, which are just a small fraction of their total costs.
Montana today could be a more prosperous state. Through investments by our state, we could have more modern schools, better roads, updated water and sewer systems, and a greater access to a college education.
Our state does not have these things – not because of a natural disaster or a financial crisis brought on by things out of the state’s control. Instead, Montana is not the state it could be because of the decision made in 2003 to sharply reduce taxes.
Almost every employee experiences a temporary or extended illness, the birth of a child, or caregiving responsibilities for a sick family member, forcing the employee to take time off from work.
The quality of life we enjoy in our state is directly connected to the public systems and structures we have developed over many decades. Our parks, quality schools, and reliable roads make Montana a great place to live and work. The state budget created during the 2015 legislative session will, for the most part, invest new dollars into our local communities to help our neighbors and friends.
In Montana, thousands of families struggle to make ends meet. One of the most promising policy opportunities to support working families and boost our economy is the enactment of a state Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). The Great Recession and other economic trends made it harder for Montana’s families to live above the poverty line. In fact, Montana has over 27,000 families that are working but are below or near the poverty line.
Montana should reject any attempts to call a constitutional convention for two reasons. The first is that Montana Legislators cannot control what will happen if a constitutional convention is called and could result in sweeping and unforeseen changes to the Constitution, the country, and our state.
Investing now in kids and families will strengthen Montana’s children and families, our communities, and the state’s economy. Quality, public pre-K helps parents work, reduces education costs, increases future earnings of participants, and reduces the state’s spending on corrections.
Montana is currently one of only eight states not investing in its youngest learners.
State funding for pre-Kindergarten is an opportunity to strengthen our state’s economy and help Montana’s hard working families.
The cost of high-quality child care is a significant obstacle for many working families. Many parents face frustrating choices: pay an excessive portion of their income in child care costs, choose lower-quality care, or quit their jobs. For families working hard to build an economically secure future, none of these choices are good options.