The Billings Chamber of Commerce has announced their priorities for the 2023 Montana Legislature, which were identified by Chamber members and approved by the Board of Directors.
The Billings Chamber supports the Governor’s proposals to increase the Business Equipment Tax exemption and decrease the top marginal income tax rate. Both will provide significant benefits to our businesses.
In Yellowstone County, there are 502 entities with business equipment tax liability in tax year 2022. Raising the exemption threshold to $1 million would fully exempt 273 entities, reduce liabilities for the remaining 229, and provide a total savings of $1.293 million to businesses in Yellowstone County. Local government and school district revenues will be backfilled through adjustments to Entitlement Share and Guaranteed Tax Base funding mechanisms.
The Billings Chamber’s membership primarily consists of small businesses (about 90%), many of which will file as pass-through entities. Lowering the top marginal income tax rate from 6.5% to 5.9% will provide tax savings to many small businesses, allowing them to reinvest in their businesses. The decrease also makes Montana more competitive as we currently have the highest top marginal income tax rate among our neighboring states.
The Chamber supported the 2021 Public Safety Mill Levy (PSML), adding resources to our police department, fire department, and other public safety needs. The Chamber recognizes that multiple, complex, public safety issues remain and are committed to working with our legislative delegation to support solutions.
For example, currently the state pays less than the actual cost of housing state inmates at local detention facilities, which leaves Yellowstone County taxpayers to subsidize state inmates. Representative Kerri Seekins-Crowe (R) HD 43 has a bill draft (HB 174) to address that. Senator Barry Usher (R) SD 20 is sponsoring a bill (SB 94) to provide necessary oversight to recovery residences.
Billings has over 30 such homes, the most in the state. Many operate appropriately, leading to good outcomes for their clients, while a few bad actors sully that good work, leading to neighborhood safety concerns and negative outcomes for people on the road to recovery.
A significant barrier for businesses attracting and retaining an adequate workforce, is the lack of housing supply. A recent study estimates that four of the top five occupations in Billings—about 36,000 people—don’t make enough to afford a median priced home. Industry analysis and the academic consensus identify a major contributor to undersupply and unaffordability is local government regulations. The Chamber will be supporting pro-housing legislation that helps address housing challenges.
In addition to these top three priorities, the Chamber will also support tourism, which is a significant economic benefit for Montana and creates 50,000 jobs throughout the state.
The Chamber, together with Montana State University Billings, will be hosting bi-weekly videoconferences to provide citizens with opportunities to engage with local legislators. The next one takes place Thursday, January 19 at MSU Billings. Visit www.BillingsChamber.com/public-policy/ to learn more about the Chamber’s legislative efforts or to attend a videoconference. To receive weekly updates about the Chamber’s work through the legislative session, email Business Advocacy Director Dan Brooks at email@example.com.