Drivers learn very early on that we put the car into “D” to move forward and “R” to go in reverse. It’s a simple driving maneuver, but one that aptly describes our current economic situation. We need to move forward as better days are ahead. Don’t let anyone fool you into believing that Montana cannot out perform the rest of the nation.
We got it right by being one of only two states in the entire nation to have a surplus, to be able to balance our budget. The next Legislature will do the same: We will live within our means without raising taxes. Montana does not have to borrow or bond, nor do we have to rob injured worker funds to pay our way as was done during the 2003 budget crunch.
Montana is lucky to have had good fiscal management at the helm over the past six years; we have one of the best business climates in the nation. We are first in business start up activity, third in business sales tax climate, fourth in most educated workforce, sixth in overall business tax climate as well as cost of labor, and eighth in best overall business climate and overall quality of life.
These are good achievements due not just to the entrepreneurial spirit of Montanans, but also to proper management that is not afraid to challenge every expense. But we must not rest on our laurels. There is much work ahead as our best days are before us. The next Legislature must be brave; the last messed up property tax reappraisals by not waiting until after the market slippage had finalized. Legislators must now again reappraise all valuations so that homeowners and small businesses get a fair shake due to any localized market slippage. Homeowners and small businesses should only be taxed on valuations that reflect the current market.
Cutting taxes, balancing our budget while keeping cash in the bank, and being smart about what services we fund is key to moving us forward toward number one in the nation. Montanans are a kind people and deserve no less than a full commitment from the next Legislature.
We need smart leaders representing Main Street Montanans: those who have a plan for improving our economy, business climate, creating jobs, and enhancing our savings. It’s pretty simple: We need more private sector growth that boosts an even grander middle class.
Our best days are ahead, and no one expects us to sit on our laurels. But we must remember what our dads taught us in our early days of driving: “D” is for forward, “R” is for reverse, and neutral gets us nowhere.
Rep. Mike Jopek