Governor’s Tax Relief Bills Make Their Debut

Fans of the fantasy genre are likely aware of the policy critique George R.R. Martin (Game of Thrones) raises about J.R.R. Tolkien’s (The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings) work. In a Rolling Stones interview in 2014, Martin raises the question, “What was Aragorn’s tax policy?” Sure, he’s an excellent battlefield leader, but does that translate to effective rule as the King of Gondor?

I’m willing to give Tolkien a pass, considering we don’t need to get bogged down in tax policy when the fate of Middle Earth is at stake. Fortunately, in Montana we don’t face a similar existential crisis and we should dive into the weeds on tax policy. This week, a few of Governor Gianforte’s tax proposals are up for debate, answering the question about our leadership that Tolkien never did.

Among the proposals are a couple the Billings Chamber is eager to support.

The first is House Bill (HB) 212, a bill to increase the business equipment tax exemption from $300,000 to $1 million. Meaning, businesses with market value of class 8 property less than $1 million are exempt from taxation. And those businesses with class 8 property valued at over $1 million will see reduced taxes.

For Yellowstone County, that means significant savings to our business community. There are 502 entities with business equipment tax liability in tax year 2022. House Bill 212 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.

The Billings Chamber has long been a supporter of reducing or eliminating the business equipment tax. We were enthusiastic supporters of raising the exemption to $300,000 during the 2021 Session, and we believe HB 212 is an even better step in the right direction.

The Billings Chamber would also like to thank our area legislators who have signed on as co-sponsors of this bill.

  • Sen. Jason Small
  • Rep. Larry Brewster
  • Rep. Paul Green
  • Rep. Jodee Etchart
  • Rep. Brad Barker

Another tax bill making it’s debut this week is Senate Bill (SB) 121. This bill would lower the top marginal income tax rate from 6.5% to 5.9%. It also comes with significant benefits to Yellowstone County taxpayers. The Department of Revenue estimates SB 121 will result in a tax savings of $20.5 million for Yellowstone County taxpayers in tax year 2024. With many of our small businesses filing as pass-throughs, this means more money to reinvest in their businesses.

Reducing Montana’s top income tax rate to 5.9% would allow the state to take a step down from the top of the tax rate podium. Currently, Montana holds the title for highest top marginal tax rate among our neighboring states. See the graphic below and note that it lists the state’s top rate as 6.75 in January 2022 rather than 6.5, which would go into effect in 2024 per legislation passed in 2021. 

Working for You

House Bill 174

Requiring costs paid to detention centers be based on actual cost

Rep. Kerri Seekins-Crowe (R) HD 43

Billings Chamber: SUPPORTS

One of the public safety problems we face in Billings is the capacity of our jail. When the Chamber led the recent safety levy effort, we’d hear from law enforcement about “catch-and-release” policing, a byproduct of the jail being overcrowded. Expanding the jail and hiring more detention facility employees would help with our safety need, but will require county taxpayers to chip in. In the meantime, HB 174 attempts to relieve some of the burden our taxpayers face, effectively subsidizing state inmates in our jail. Currently, the cost to the county of housing an inmate is around $100/day while the state only pays around $69. The bill will be heard in (H) Judiciary January 18th at 8:00am.

House Bill 219

Exempt certain military pensions from income taxes

Rep. Scott Kerns (R) HD 23

Billings Chamber: SUPPORTS

This bill exempts portions of military pension income, military retirement income, and survivors’ benefits based on taxable retirement income. The exemption is phased in over four years between tax years 2024 and 2027. Veterans retiring from the military provide a significant pool of talent our businesses are looking to employ. Local surveys of businesses show the hardest skills to find in job candidates are critical thinking, problem solving, and decision-making skills—retired veterans offer all three. Passage of this bill would help to encourage more retired veterans to bring their skills to Montana. The bill will be heard in (H) Taxation January 18th at 9:00am.

Legislative Videoconferences

Noon – 1:00pm

January 19th *

February 2nd


February 16th

Big Sky EDA

March 2nd

Downtown Billings

March 16th

March 30th

April 13th

Videoconference sessions will be held in the Liberal Arts Building, Room 208 at the MSU Billings campus, where individuals will have the opportunity to hear from, and ask questions of, our local legislators. There is a limit of 25 people for each in-person session and a box lunch will be provided for those who RSVP. Come and hear from our local legislators about what is happening in Helena and give your feedback. Thanks to MSU Billings and our sponsors: Billings Association of REALTORSBig Sky Economic DevelopmentDowntown Billings Alliance, and the newly-certified LEED Gold, City of Billings.

Virtual Testimony Makes It Easy

  • You will be able to select from the bills scheduled for the next 3 days. 
  • By 5PM the day before the hearing, you will be able to submit your written testimony, write a brief message, or request a Zoom link to testify in the bill hearing.
  • Fill out the form with the pertinent details and submit. You will receive an email confirmation.
  • You do not have to testify in order to submit written comments. Written comments received by the deadline will be distributed to all committee members. However, if you request a Zoom link, we request that you write a brief message in the event of technical difficulties so that your name will be entered into the record. 
  • If you wish to submit written testimony after the 5PM deadline please call the Information Desk at (406) 444-4800 for assistance​.
  • Rules of decorum must be followed and the Presiding Officer will call on you when it is your turn to speak. Follow the Zoom directions and raise your hand to let the Remote Committee Coordinator know when you want to speak. We will not assume that because you requested the Zoom link that you automatically want to testify.  There may be limits placed on how many people are allowed to testify remotely on each bill.

Business Advocacy Sponsors

Please don’t hesitate to reach out to the Billings Chamber’s Business Advocacy Director, Dan Brooks with questions, comments, or just want to chat about the legislature.

Email Dan at