The drumbeat for higher taxes is again being manufactured in Montana. As usual, it starts with a policy paper issued by a liberal leaning think tank, gets taken up by various news outlets, and then becomes the topic de jour at various staged meetings.
This election season the call is for higher taxes on the oil and gas job creators justified by the “need to deal with local impacts that aren’t being met.” But an examination of the facts demonstrates that higher taxes are not needed. Instead, simply let the oil and gas producing regions keep more of the money they generate to manage economic growth.
It’s disingenuous to suggest that “impacts” in Eastern Montana can be solved by taking tax revenues generated there as happened during the last Legislature. It’s nothing more than a naked power grab to confiscate the wealth that is generated and redistribute it to regions and spending programs that are addicted to government largesse.
Here are the facts on oil and gas tax revenues and expenditures. In Fiscal Year 2011 total tax revenues from oil and gas production taxes were around $220 million. That number does not include corporate income taxes, income taxes paid by employees of the companies and their small business suppliers and vendors, business equipment taxes, income taxes paid by royalty owners, or money the state receives from leasing its own lands or money from leasing federal lands.
Of that $220 million in oil and gas production taxes, a total of $115 million (52.3 percent, the cream) came right off the top and went directly to a variety of state government accounts. Of the remaining $105 million, roughly $48 million went to county governments, $53 million went to school districts, a quarter million to community colleges, but less than $4 million was retained by local governments through natural resource accounts. And that last number is where the rub comes, as it is the local governments who need greater flexibility to address changes in population.
In 2007 the Legislature passed legislation to enable oil and gas producing regions to deal with growth without tax increases. House Bill 823, carried by Democratic Rep. Veronica Small-Eastman, passed the House 86-14 and the Senate 47-1. It took a relatively small share of the taxes generated by the oil and gas regions and simply left the money with the counties to spend on roads and bridges. This bill would have addressed one of the major rationales proffered by those favoring higher taxes today.
HB 798, carried by Republican Representative Carol Lambert, would have transferred $10 million a year from ongoing federal mineral leasing fees to an updated Coal, Oil, Gas and Energy Development Impact Board for grants to local governments, including cities and towns, so they could prepare for growth from “oil and gas development activity.” That bill passed the Senate on a bipartisan 28-22 vote and the House by an astounding 93-5. Shortsightedly, both bills were vetoed by Gov. Brian Schweitzer, who wanted grain in the state government bin, not community bins. So the region has suffered from the decision to remove nearly $50 million from their effort to deal with the growth they are facing.
We have a chance to get it right in 2013. Let’s leave the money in the region that has generated the greatest hope for our state economy, the very region where the work actually occurred, the very region that generated the taxes. We don’t need higher taxes on oil and gas job creators; we just need to allow the region that creates jobs and generates the revenue in the first place to put it to work in their communities.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 30 May 2012 09:13
With our primary impending, other readers have probably gleaned that Mitt Romney is the clear frontrunner. It is easy to understand Romney’s appeal if one examines the candidates’ stances, experience and leadership on the economy. What America needs right now is business growth and job creation, which Romney has made a priority both in his time in government and in the private sector. Your coverage should explain why so many people have come together to back Romney – and why it’s so important now that we, too, do our part.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 30 May 2012 09:12
Right now, there is no Republican on the ballot for clerk of the Montana Supreme Court. The only way we can get one there is by write-in campaign. My name is Bowen Greenwood, and I’m trying to get that done.
The Clerk of Supreme Court manages the court’s docket, processes papers filed there by attorneys, and more. It’s a position of humble public service; that appeals to me. I’m a lifelong Montanan, born here to a family that has been here for generations. I’ve worked in Republican politics for years. I love Montana, I believe strongly in less government and lower taxes, and I am asking for your support and your write-in vote.
All Republicans are strengthened by having a full ticket. If we can get our candidate on the ballot for this office in November, Republicans all the way down the line will do better. In very close legislative races, it could make the difference!
If you are willing to support this effort, here’s what to do:
1. When voting your Republican primary ballot, you will come to the office of Clerk of the Supreme Court with a blank line under it.
2. On that line, write in “Bowen Greenwood.”
3. Fill in the oval next to the line. Your vote won’t count otherwise!
4. Tell all your friends and family. Spread the word via e-mail, Facebook, twitter, or word of mouth.
5. Visit www.bowengreenwood.com to learn more.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 30 May 2012 09:11
As a reader who has followed your reporting on the imminent election here, I write to share information that has been missing in your coverage. Your readers deserve to know that Rep. Ron Paul offers the only responsible choice for restoring our state and nation to greatness.
While both President Obama and Gov. Romney have supported bailouts and unaffordable health care plans, only Ron Paul has stood steadfast in his commitment to free enterprise. Paul will eliminate our foreign entanglements that have plundered American blood and treasure. And only Paul is committed to ending the “nanny state” that seeks to have government dictate every aspect of our lives and has crippled our economy.
If we care about the Constitution, Paul is the only responsible choice. I urge everyone reading this to vote for Ron Paul.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 30 May 2012 09:09
Lynda Moss has been a tireless champion in the Montana Senate for the past eight years for causes that make Montana a great place to live. The majority of the legislation Lynda sponsored had strong bipartisan support. Examples of the legislation include: mandatory alcohol server training as a strategy to address DUI in Montana, long-term care in the Older Montanan’s Act requiring accountability for long-term care by the Department of Health and Human Services, and streamlining municipal court systems.
The Public Service Commission’s decisions affect each and every one of us in Montana. Choosing the best person to keep our interests as the first priority is crucial. Lynda has demonstrated her ability to work with all residents from Southeast Montana. She is tireless in wanting to know the issues important to voters. Her top priority is to keep utility rates affordable.
Lynda was on the Senate Energy and Telecommunications Committee, which prepared her for the work of the Public Service Commission. She earned the respect of her fellow legislators because of her strong communication skills and knowledge of what is good for Montana now and in the future.
We need Lynda to represent District 2 on the Public Service Commission.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 30 May 2012 09:08
Your reporting on the upcoming election has suggested that Mitt Romney may be the eventual Republican nominee. What may not be as clear to readers are the reasons that Romney, and not another candidate, is the right man to lead our country as this moment.
Our economy is under assault from President Obama’s efforts to transform it into a European-style welfare state. While other candidates have spent their lives in government, only Romney has led a successful career helping new companies get started and producing thousands of jobs.
Further, his success in business and his command of the issues make him the candidate most likely to defeat Barack Obama in November. And when it comes to foreign policy, Romney is proud of America’s greatness.
Mitt Romney is the right choice for our state and our nation.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 30 May 2012 09:07