Many Montanans enjoy a high quality of life, which is directly connected to the public investments we have made collectively over many decades. Montana invests in quality education for our children, state parks for residents and visitors, and public health and safety for those of us lucky enough to call Montana home. However, policymakers have failed to pass measures that would have kept revenue levels stable. Instead, when revenue plummeted in 2017, they made significant budget cuts that hurt our communities and families, particularly those living on lower incomes who are continuing to pay the price for this lack of investment.
Right now, there are two studies of state revenue and spending being conducted by legislative interim committees. This gives legislators the opportunity to correct course and get Montana’s state budget back on track. In 2017, state general fund budget cuts resulted in almost $100 million in deep cuts to public health and human services, including cuts to services for children with developmental disabilities, cuts to home and community-based services for seniors and people with disabilities, and the closure of the 19 Offices of Public Assistance, making access to assistance even more difficult for rural families. Even though some budget cuts were restored in 2018, many families continue to struggle to access critical services in their communities.
We need to make sure Montana has enough revenue to invest in health services for our neighbors, education of our children, food for our families, and public safety for our communities. The legislature can accomplish these goals and make Montana’s tax system more equitable for working families with common-sense measures, such as eliminating the capital gains tax credit, restoring the top income tax bracket on the wealthiest 1 percent of households, eliminating the oil and gas tax holiday, and closing business tax loopholes. As state policymakers continue to review Montana’s revenue system, they should keep in mind that when taxes are fair, stable, and sufficient to fund the services – then all of us can experience the Montana that we love to call home.
MBPC is a nonprofit organization focused on providing credible and timely research and analysis on budget, tax, and economic issues that impact low- and moderate-income Montana families.