Today is what many people refer to as Tax Day, and not always with a smile on their faces. But you know what? We’d all be a lot less better off if our state didn’t call on us to pool our resources in ways that invest in the public good today and in the future.
That’s because those resources enable us to invest in the building blocks of a strong economy and the quality of life that makes Montana such a great place to live.
In two previous blogs, Who Pays? and We Pay, Why Don’t They?, we looked at who contributes to paying taxes in Montana. We found that low-and-moderate income families pay a greater share of their income in taxes than wealthy residents, and tax breaks like the capital gains tax credit benefit large businesses at the expense of all Montanans. Because of this, there’s a great need to improve tax fairness in the state. Today, let’s explore how the money is used.
The Montana Department of Revenue’s biennial report is a good roadmap for learning about how tax revenue is invested back into our communities.
- More tax dollars are used to support education in Montana than anything else. The money helps build and support Montana public schools, community colleges, universities, and tribal colleges. These investments make it possible for Montanans to compete in today’s global economy and helps businesses access the skilled workers they need to thrive. Tax dollars sustain a high quality of education through our teachers and programming, which enabled Montana high schools to reach the 12th highest graduation rate in the country and Montana 8th graders to achieve some of the highest test scores in math, reading, and science nationwide.
- One-fifth of state spending helps build and maintain roads and bridges and supports the police and firefighters that protect our communities. Investments in infrastructure ensure that our highways and bridges are well maintained and safe to travel so we can get to and from work and further explore all of the beautiful places in our state.
- Almost 10% of spending protects Montana’s natural resources and environment, including the parks, trails, and forests we all enjoy. Both state and federal tax dollars maintain and conserve 54 state parks and two national parks so we can continue to camp, fish, and hike throughout Montana.
So, sure, some folks like to complain about paying taxes on April 15th. But, we’d all have a lot more to complain about if Tax Day never came. Taxes are the visual proof that all Montanans come together to invest in the things that matter most. Tax dollars support the everyday necessities we rely on like police officers, hospitals, and public schools. These funds also sustain items that enrich our lives like parks and libraries. On this Tax Day, take a moment to consider just how much taxes improve you and your family’s well-being.