The 65th Legislative Session of the Montana Legislature adjourned Sine Die this morning on the 88th legislative day. Guided by our ten-year strategic plan, Envision 2026, we recorded several victories by advancing business-friendly legislation and defeating proposals that would harm Montana’s business climate. Major policy change was overshadowed by the budget this session, leaving much undone and setting the stage for the 2017-2018 Interim and the 2019 Legislature.
Through our commitment to expand and address the “skills gaps” in our state’s workforce, we utilized every opportunity to advocate for funding and access to programs for our workers. We advanced HB 308 to the Governor’s desk, an apprenticeship tax credit program. Montana’s rising workforce will benefit from our support of the ten-year renewal of the 6-mill levy for the Montana University System, a tuition waiver program, and dual enrollment at community colleges. Unfinished business includes better access and affordability to workforce training.
Partnering with the Montana Infrastructure Coalition (MIC), we led efforts to achieve significant infrastructure investment through HB 473, the Bridge and Road Safety and Accountability Act. This bill creates jobs, improves public safety, and provides a match for federal dollars. One of the greatest disappointments this session was the failure of a needed bonding package. The MIC will continue to drive the agenda for infrastructure investment, including proposals such as a local option infrastructure tax and public/private partnerships.
Maintaining an optimal business climate and reducing the cost of doing business are Montana Chamber mainstays, with progress in areas of tax, legal reform, and workers’ compensation. We advanced bills to the Governor that would reduce legal costs and taxes on Montanans. We are gearing up for a stronger push to reduce the business equipment tax, improve the legal climate, and simplify the tax code in 2019. The Chamber defeated bills to increase taxes, workers’ compensation costs, and unnecessary regulation.
The Montana Chamber supported proposals to improve entrepreneurship, including a venture capital tax credit. We also supported the Governor’s tax abatement bill to encourage investment in new and expanding business. We look forward to collaborating with stakeholders over the Interim to find more solutions for Montana startups.
The Montana Chamber thanks the Governor, legislators, and countless staff for their service to Montana. With the 2017 Legislative Session wrapping up, we still have work to do. As your 24/7/365 business advocate, we will continue working toward achieving the objectives of Envision 2026.