Senator Jeff Welborn’s Weekly Review
The week started out with big news out of Colstrip, as
NorthWestern Energy and some of the West Coast Partners were
able to gain interest in Colstrip Units 3 and 4. The power plant,
the town, and most importantly the people—are crucial to
Montana’s future. Last Monday’s announcement is the best news
coming out of Colstrip in many years. We are excited and
encouraged about the future of Colstrip, its people, and Montana
energy production, we as both tax payers and energy ratepayers
will be better served with this certainty in the marketplace.
Moving along, I’d like to address A bill being heard in the Senate
that would keep corporate influences out of the official
administration of Montana’s elections.
Senate Bill 117 would prohibit state and local governments from
using outside money to conduct elections, instead requiring that
all election administration costs be paid for with public funds. SB
117 is sponsored by Sen. Shelley Vance, R-Belgrade, a former
Gallatin County Clerk and Recorder.
When I visited with Senator Vance, she told me, “This is a simple
bill,” “Montana’s elections are not for sale. Elections are decided
by the voting public and it’s not appropriate for anyone other than
the public to be funding the administration of elections.”
I also agree with Senator Vance that there is no room for even the
appearance of a corrupting influence or a tipping of the scales
when it comes to the official operations of our elections.
SB 117 establishes a felony penalty for violations of its provisions
keeping the official state administration of elections free of outside
Next, I’d like to address a pair of tax proposals moving forward.
Senate Bill 121 is a long-term tax relief bill of the 2023 legislative
session. SB 121 would cut the state’s income tax rate paid by
middle class Montanans from 6.5% to 5.9%, allowing Montanans
to keep more of their hard-earned money. The bill also increases
the Earned Income Tax Credit from 3% to 10%, providing a
refundable tax credit to lower and moderate income workers.
SB 121 is sponsored by Sen. Becky Beard, R-Elliston and is also
one of Governor Gianforte’s policy priorities.
Montanans are struggling to make ends meet and have been
paying more income taxes than the state needs to fund essential
services, this is a common sense approach to returning some
money back, simply by collecting less to begin with, I’d also
argue it’s giving Montanans same as a pay raise, by permanently
cutting the taxes they pay.
The second tax bill is Senate Bill 124, sponsored by Sen. Greg
Hertz, R-Polson. SB 124 simplifies Montana’s corporate taxes to
benefit Montana businesses.
This bill will help put Montana companies on a more even playing
field with companies based in other states, the big box stores and
non resident corporations to be precise, by moving to a single
sales factor on corporate taxes, we’ll be cutting taxes for many
Montana businesses and treat them the same as out-of-state
corporations, instead of our current system that penalizes home-
grown Montana companies.
I’d like to close out this week report with an update, as promised
on the skating at Bannack State Park, here’s what I’ve learned.
Normally the park operates with a manager, assistant manager,
ranger, and full-time maintenance person all winter. With the
resignation of the former Park Manager on November 30th and
only a half-time maintenance person currently on staff, the park is
down by 1.5 positions for the season. Given the amount of work it
takes to prepare the pond, maintain the pond, and patrol the ice-
skating, priority was given to keeping the visitor center open,
talking to visitors, and other administrative duties rather than
focus on the ice-skating.
The combination of being short-staffed and lack of a warming hut
led to the recommendation of pausing park-supported ice-skating
for the 2022-2023 season, with the intent to offer this activity
again for the 2023-2024 season. This closure has been put on
the park's answering message and a notice will be put on the
park's alerts and closure page.
In the meantime, I’m having a discussion with FWP about building
a warming hut, that would both benefit park guests, and answer a
liability concern of utilizing the existing equipment shed, when
folks skate in the absence of park employees. I will also be
working on this issue, as we discuss the FWP budget. With the
addition of a warming hut, and perhaps a partnership with
volunteers to backfill staffing shortages, until that gets resolved, I
feel we can keep the tradition alive.
Thanks for staying in touch, on issues important to you.
Please log in to leg.mt.gov to track bills, or testify remotely, or
email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to communicate any thought
you may have.
Have a great week, and thanks for your time.