Posted: Sep 20, 2012 11:22 AM by Marnee Banks - MTN News
Updated: Sep 20, 2012 11:43 AM
HELENA - State Democratic lawmakers on Wednesday announced their legislative priorities for the upcoming 2013 session.
Several Democrat legislators traveled 6,000 miles and visited 16 Montana communities to draft the plan, which they say will improve Montana's economy and create jobs.
MT State Representative Chuck Hunter (D-Helena) noted, "It was a great experience to do the tour. I think all of us who were on it really felt excited about what we learned and we were astounded by the diversity of the Montana economy.
The plan looks at several components but the three overarching themes are education, infrastructure, and tax cuts.
They want to increase funding for education and freeze tuition; Hunter said, "We heard more about education than any other single piece when we were out in every community and every business."
Democrats plan to introduce a bill during the 2013 legislative session to eliminate the business equipment tax on companies with less than $1 million dollars worth of equipment.
They also want to create an oil and gas fund so communities feeling the pinch from development can get cash more quickly to deal with impacts.
They say this plan is reflective of what Montanans told them they need.
MT State Senator Carol Williams (D-Missoula) said, "They didn't say we should give massive tax breaks to out of state corporations, many of whom are their competitors. They didn't say we should abandon responsibility as we pursue new growth industries. They asked us to listen. They asked us to take a smart middle of the road approach."
It's something Democrats say didn't happen last session with Republicans controlling both Houses of the Montana Legislature, and they hope this message will resonate with voters and they'll be able to regain seats in the Legislature.
Republicans have not yet laid out their legislative plan, but Speaker of the House Mike Milburn says GOP legislators have been working on a proposal.
Milburn (R-Cascade) said, "All of our legislators are meeting when they can with private industry, with Chamber of Commerce, with the private business sector which we believe are the ones that are going to help shape the economy for Montana. They are meeting with them and compiling all the information that we can to develop these plans."
Republicans say they will release their plan after the election and before the legislative session begins in January.