Tax increases are running into problems with the Republican led Montana Legislature. Democrats have introduced a proposal for an increased tax rate on residents who make more than $400,000. Governor Bullock’s plan calls for a tax on the “super wealthy,” and increased in the tax on wine. The Republicans plan to balance the budget with spending cuts.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has announced that it had granted an easement that will allow the Dakota Access pipeline to cross under Lake Oahe. In a news release announcing that the easement was granted, the Corps said it would monitor the pipeline project and ensure that the crossing complies with the conditions of the easement. Construction work has resumed on the Dakota Access pipeline

The Keystone XL pipeline is back in play, and with construction of it now seemingly close, Dawson County stands to benefit economically, but at the same time could become a focal point for protestors opposed to the controversial project. TransCanada did not hesitate to resubmit their application after encouragement by President Trump,

Video gaming machine revenues statewide are down 1.5 percent from this time last year, a $220,202 decline, with the Bakken oil region leading the way. Overall, 34 of 56 Montana counties experienced a decrease in revenue. Richland County and Roosevelt County in northeastern Montana had about a 30 percent decline. Butte-Silverbow showed an increased in gaming machine revenue of 4.3 percent. The biggest increase was in Carter County in the southeast corner of the state.

Headframe Spirits of Butte have announced a vision for the future, and that vision includes making Butte home to one of the largest distilleries in the U.S. Step one has been accomplished with an expansion in warehouse and packaging space. They have also hired a design engineer.

The White Bear fishing access south of Great Falls has become a law enforcement headache. Current plans are for the State to sell the access. FWP has been unable to find any sites which could be traded for, so they are considering selling the property. In the end, the commission decided to close the site while still searching for a possible land trade.

The 480-acre solar farm planned for the Billings area is looking iffy as the Montana legislature is reconsidering renewable energy policies. The MT Sun solar farm would be Montana’s largest solar project. Taxes paid by the project could be in the range of $1,000,000 per year. The land involved is State trust land so the lease fees would go to the public educations system.

The Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) is seeking comments on a proposal to reconstruct the Roberts Rest Area, located along U.S. Highway 212 approximately 2 miles northeast of Roberts. The project will include evaluation and design of the water/ wastewater systems for the rest area, permitting. Phase II of the project will include full reconstruction of the rest area, including the water/ wastewater systems, a building facility, and the parking facility.

MDU Resources Group, Inc. reported 2016 earnings from continuing operations of $232.4 million, or $1.19 per share, compared to 2015 earnings from continuing operations of $175.7 million, or 90 cents per share. In the fourth quarter of 2016, earnings from continuing operations were $66.3 million, or 33 cents per share, compared to $55.7 million, or 29 cents per share, in 2015. Including discontinued operations, primarily the exploration and production and refining businesses, MDU Resources reported 2016 earnings of $63.7 million, or 33 cents per share, compared to a loss of $623.1 million, or $3.20 per share, in 2015. In the fourth quarter of 2016, earnings including discontinued operations were $65.5 million, or 33 cents per share, compared to fourth quarter 2015’s earnings of $52.4 million, or 27 cents per share.

Royalty owners and the oil industry joined forces in backing proposed North Dakota legislation that would block efforts to wrap 340,000 acres under Lake Sakakawea as part of the official mineral ownership of the state. The legislation was triggered by growing concern that the state would take mineral ownership under the lake. Legal arguments made by deputy attorney generals in courtroom disputes contended that Lake Sakakawea was just an extension of the Missouri River, under which the state does own minerals. The big issue for the state is greater than just the loss of potential future revenue, whether they lose through this legislation or pending court cases, the state’s biggest dilemma is “paying back royalties it received under questionable circumstances in the first place,” writes Dennis Blank, Editor of Oil Patch Hotline. It means that 710 royalty owners and oil companies must be paid for land the state “aggressively asserted its ownership of.” The state would have to pay back $212.9 million for leases, and $63.5 million on royalties collected in 2017 and $29 million in royalties held in escrow. The Bureau of Land Management is also contesting aggressive ownership policies by the state.

Benchmark Masonry Inc. began operations recently through financing from the Montana & Idaho Community Development Corporation. Serving central Montana, Benchmark Masonry provides tile, stone, brick, concrete block, fireplace construction and historic restoration services for residential and commercial projects. Benchmark Masonry owner CJ Bailey has 15 years of experience in the masonry industry, starting at the bottom and working his way up to estimating, project management and operations. “The goal is to strategically build my business into one of the largest in Montana,” CJ said.

Acorn Pediatrics is joining Billings Clinic to form Billings Clinic Acorn Pediatrics and Pediatric Specialties. The partnership provides collaborative pediatric and pediatric specialty care to children in the Bozeman area. Billings Clinic Acorn Pediatrics employs two physicians, Dr. Sheila Idzerda and Dr. Courtney Handlin, and six nursing and staff members. Additionally, pediatric specialists from Billings Clinic will provide cardiology, neurology, urology, pulmonology, endocrinology, and oncology/hematology care for kids at the new clinic.

According to a recent poll conducted by Colorado College, Montana’s outdoor economy generates $1.5 billion in wages and salaries, $5.8 billion in consumer spending, $403 million in state and local tax revenue, and supports 64,000 jobs. Six in ten respondents were supportive of public lands.

US oil prices rose to $53.08 a barrel – up 71 cents – for West Texas intermediate crude for February delivery during early January trading. Prices in Montana, Wyoming and North Dakota sweet crude range from $42.26 to $44.25.

The Gallatin County and surrounding area real estate market demonstrated consistent strength throughout 2016, according to year-end statistics released by the Gallatin Association of Realtors. The number of homes for sale was drastically down in year-over-year comparisons, along with days on market and months of supply. Meanwhile, sales and prices were up in most markets. The number of units sold increased 7.3 percent for single family homes but decreased 5.2 percent for condo/townhouse homes. Pending sales increased 62.5 percent for single family homes and 11.4 percent for condo/townhouse homes. The median sales price increased 0.1 percent to $335,000 for single family homes and 47.5 percent to $298,000 for condo/townhouse homes. Available inventory decreased 15.5 percent for single family homes and 36.0 percent for condo/townhouse homes.

MDU Resources Group Inc. that subsidiary MDU Construction Services Group Inc. recently sold its membership interests in Nevada Valley Solar Solutions II LLC to an affiliate of ORIX USA. MDU Construction Services Group and Valley Electric Association, a member-owned electric cooperative, developed the 17.5-megawatt VEA Community Solar Project, which is one of the largest community solar projects in the U.S. Bombard Renewable Energy, an indirect subsidiary of MDU Construction Services Group, provided turnkey engineering, procurement and construction, installing more than 51,400 solar photovoltaic panels on an 80-acre site. The solar facility, recently named one of Solar Builder Magazine’s Editor’s Choice projects of the year, will supply electricity to VEA members.

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