- Category: Editor
- Published: Thursday, 23 October 2014 09:23
- Hits: 1506
As we approach the next state legislature, and candidates and organizations proclaim their unabashed support for economic development in Montana, exactly like every other legislative year — one has to wonder why, of the state’s fundamental problems, so very little ever changes.
Since at least the 1970s – the time frame of my political awareness – the list of issues that businesspeople readily identify as barriers to economic growth in Montana, remains exactly the same today.
That reality was underscored a couple of weeks ago, by one businessman who made very clear that other stabs at improving our economy are of little purpose, when the biggest reasons Billings and Montana “lose out” on opportunities, are three basic issues – having the highest workers compensation in the nation, not having a right to work and taxing the means to creating wealth, ie. the business equipment tax.
The list could be longer, but his focus on just those three is enough to make the point.
While there is lots of public discourse about so many other things – unless it is mentioned as a “whiney” side note by some business person during one of those other discourses, there is no loud consistent, campaign about these three issues from anyone else, most especially from those whom one would most expect it – economic developers, business organizations and those legislators (and governors) who otherwise claim to want to improve Montana’s business climate.
They cringe in fear at even having to mention “right to work,” so no one does. So, surprise! We lose out to states who weren’t so intimidated.
And, while incremental changes have been made to lower the business equipment tax, and to the workers compensation law, it’s been a ridiculously long slog, and the basic problem remains in place. Montana still is the only state, so insane, as to tax the means of growth, production, jobs and exports – not to mention the profits from which taxes are paid. Just because we are that ridiculous, doesn’t mean investors have to be insane enough to locate where they are forced to be constantly paying out for the equipment they need to create wealth.
And, while changes to workers compensation has brought some relief, it still remains the highest in the nation. So choosing between Montana and another state in that regard is also a no-brainer.
So, as this businessman was pointing out, if you aren’t serious enough about improving the state’s economy, in these regards, why fool with all these other programs, projects and tinkerings, which at best will just sit on the shelf until the fundamentals are changed?
Of course there are some answers to that question – other efforts make people feel like they are doing something, or at least it fools voters into thinking they are doing something and that they are sincere in their rhetoric. Some of the other efforts generate revenue to special interest professionals or bureaucratic pockets, at broader taxpayer expense.
Some “business improvement” laws which are enacted, and are claimed to be to our economic benefit, are often, quite the opposite; and others are nothing more than protectionism for political cronies. And, sadly, most of them are all passed through compromises which help to entrench the status quo of our fundamental problems.
One young women at the same meeting as the businessman, said she thought not being able to change the fundamental issues in Montana is “political.”
And, then later in the conversation, she said she thought the situation exists because it’s part of Montana’s culture.
Hmm, maybe she’s got something there. But, isn’t coming to that conclusion, the same thing as giving up?