If you head over to Ballotpedia you get a pretty good look at the Montana state budget for 2013, as well as a few other years. What’s more, you can compare revenue and expenditures with other Rocky Mountain States. Here’s what Montana’s revenue looked like in 2013:
- Sales Tax;
- Personal Income Tax;
- Corporate Income Tax;
- Gaming Tax;
- Other Taxes and Fees.
How can we shuffle those numbers around so we’re not fighting over money at the end of every legislative session? How can we produce more revenue, because I’m sorry, we’re underfunding things now to the point that it’s just shooting us in the foot long-term. Those other states there, Colorado especially, are just killing us in terms of being in the 21st century.
- Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP);
- Institutional Care for Mentally Ill & Disabled;
- Public Health Programs;
- Employer Contributions to Pensions and Health Benefits;
- Economic Development;
- Environmental Projects;
- State Police;
- Parks and Recreation;
- Aid to Local Governments.
Gosh, that’s a helluva lot of stuff to just throw into the catch-all “other” category. And “Public Health Programs” and “Economic Development?” Those should be up in that list of 5, at least that Public Health, as we know an aging state like Montana will have issues with that for some time, and those issues need to be addressed by us or by the Feds.
And what about the feds?
Love ‘em or hate ‘em, Montana and the feds are joined at the hip.
Or are they? We know Montana couldn’t survive economically without the feds, but could the feds survive without us? Could America survive without Montana?
Yes, but would she want to?
Let’s get back to that sales tax. In 2009, Montana received $57 million in revenue from sales taxes, primarily the local option sales taxes that resort areas of less than 5,000 people have instituted. Perhaps because of the financial meltdown that 2008-9 brought, the sales tax income for Montana jumped to $66 million in 2010. Since then it’s fallen off, to $62 million in 2013.
- Colorado: $2.1 billion in income;
- Utah: $1.6 billion in income;
- Idaho: $1.1 billion in income;
- Wyoming: $499 million in income;
- Montana: $62 million in income.
Let’s take this a step further and look at the Coastal States around us:
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Where do they make that up? Yep, with personal income taxes, which account for the vast majority of their revenue, although Oregon is ranked 12th in the country for federal aid, which was $7.8 billion in 2012.
Back to the Treasure State…what are we going to do? We need money, but no one wants to raise taxes. I’ve mentioned a lot lately how neither Democrats nor Republicans were able to get this issue going last go-round in the early 1990s, and to think we can just local-option our way into it is not going to work.
So we have some options, but I’d like to see my personal income taxes lower if I have to pay a sales tax. How will that be worked out? And why can’t we begin taxing corporations a bit more? And please, let’s tax the hell out of marijuana, which of course would mean legalizing it first. I’d love to get an extra $10 to $20 million in tax revenue each year, and from citizens (and voters) willing to pay it, happily so.
There’s no shame in talking about these things and exploring options, and I hope more people do it. I wish we had more talk like this on websites and in the papers, and certainly in the legislature, but it seems silly issues consume us all too often. Maybe we can change that.