Gov. Steve Bullock signed into law a tax break bill that could help businesses set up shop or expand here.
House Bill 226, sponsored by House District 3 Rep. Zac Perry, D-Martin City, allows local governments the option of lower new or expanding businesses property taxes up to 75 percent for the first five years. Taxes go up incrementally after that, until they’re 100 percent at year 10.
The bill was amended from its original version, allowing local governments the option of a 75 percent or 50 percent tax break.
Locally, the bill could help bring a business to the Columbia Falls industrial park north of Railroad Street.
“I’m hoping it will be just another tool for the city,” Perry said.
The bill passed the House easily, with broad support from the GOP members. But it sat in committee in the Senate almost until the end of the session, when it finally made it out of committee.
Overall, Perry said the session had its high and low points. He said he was disappointed the Legislature failed to pass an infrastructure bonding bill.
On the plus side, there was less partisanship, he noted.
Perry voted against a measure that raises the gas and diesel fuel tax to pay for roads and bridges.
He said it was a tough no vote, but he didn’t think local folks would “have the stomach for it.”
Senate District 3 Rep. Dee Brown, R-Hungry Horse, agreed. She noted she could personally afford a gas tax hike, but there’s a lot of people making low wages in the Flathead who drive back and forth to Whitefish in Kalispell in older model rigs that can’t afford it.
She voted against the state budget and against the infrastructure bonding bill as well, saying the state needs to live within its means.
She said one of the highlights of the session for her was the nomination of Jeff Mangan as commissioner of political practices. He sent a message of educating, rather than litigating cases, she noted.
Mangan is a former legislator, while outgoing commissioner Jonathan Motl was an attorney. Motl, in his term, went after several candidates over the years for violations of election laws.