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On Regulation and Taxes and Montana Politics

If you’re a Republican running for governor in Montana (and other than Jeff Essmann, who’s not these days?) it seems that there are really only three things you need to talk about: restricting the right of women to make decisions about their bodies, reducing the tax burden on massive corporations, and decreasing regulations that “harm” the business climate in Montana.

In short, the GOP slogan for this election might well be 1896: Not the Worst Year Ever.

The narrative, however, just isn’t true.

The Laurel Outlook made it clear this week that corporations just don’t pay their taxes if they don’t feel like it, putting the operational budgets of schools in jeopardy:

The total amount of tax revenues under protest in Yellowstone County amounted to almost $30 million at the end of 2011, including $13.35 million for just this year. The mounting total has a significant impact on the districts and jurisdictions which would normally receive the tax revenues, not the least of which is the Laurel School District.
The Laurel School District is projected to be down a total of $5,427,571 by the end of this fiscal year, June 30, 2012.

There are two main industries which are protesting taxes — oil refineries and communication companies. Conoco protested 31 percent of its total tax bill in 2011 and CHS (Cenex) protested 63 percent. The communication companies are protesting about 85 percent of their total tax bills.

Perhaps instead of constantly fighting for reductions in the taxes businesses pay, Republicans ought to focus on making them actually pay what they owe.

The situation in Marysville is even more instructive as it relates to regulation. The Independent Record reports that the new mining operations there have been incredibly damaging to the community, with impacts including flooding, noise pollution, dangerous roads, and depleted wells.

It’s bad enough that Representative Mike Miller agreed that the residents had legitimate concerns.


What gives the people of Marysville a chance to maintain their homes and environment in decent condition? The very regulations that Republicans decry as destroying business, the very laws which ensure our state never again becomes a victim of the kinds of excesses visited upon us by the likes of William A. Clark and Standard Oil.

Republicans seem to believe that regulation is stopping business growth in Montana, all evidence to the contrary. But it’s not “stifling regulation” when it keeps your property values high; it’s not “bureaucratic red tape” when it keeps your water safe to drink, and it’s not “job-killing” when it keeps your kids’ schools adequately funded.

It’s common sense—and the recognition that Montana was not better off a century ago.It’s ensuring that Montana remain not only a place to work in, but a place we want to live in.

If you appreciate an independent voice holding Montana politicians accountable and informing voters, and you can throw a few dollars a month our way, we would certainly appreciate it.

About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba has been writing about Montana politics since 2005 and teaching high school English since 2000. He's a former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.
His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.
In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.


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