Despite President Obama’s best attempts to stimulate the economy through massive government spending programs and corporate bailouts, our economy remains in a slump. Unemployment is stubbornly high, business and consumer confidence has lagged, and growing public debt problems at home and abroad have complicated prospects of a recovery.
The pundits are quick to point to the occasional economic indicator that hints that things are getting better, but that type of optimism isn’t shared by many of the business owners and workers in the actual trenches of the economy.
It doesn’t take long to realize that this plan would inevitably increase America’s debt load even more while at the same time taking important capital out of the economic equation. High taxes and bloated government budgets have never been a recipe for economic expansion.
What’s worse, some in Washington are proposing to change the tax code in a punitive manner, targeting increases on industry sectors that are out of favor with some special interest groups. One of those targeted sectors is the oil and gas industry, and that’s bad news for Montana.
Anyone who has visited the eastern part of our state recently knows that the incredible development there in the energy industry has been a windfall to all Montana. The job growth, increased individual income, increased business income and tax revenues have made Montana one of the few economic bright spots in the nation.
Imagine what could happen if our oil and gas producers were arbitrarily targeted by Congress for disparate taxation treatment. It wouldn’t stop all activity of course — but it would reduce the capital available for new investment, which means fewer jobs and less economic growth. As profit margins narrow, marginal production areas would go undeveloped, meaning less overall economic activity.
At the same time, higher taxes on America’s energy sector will mean higher energy prices for consumers and businesses alike. We have just begun to see lower fuel costs and higher taxes will drive those prices right back up. Higher energy costs are a major part of why our economy remains sluggish, more taxes would only dampen it more.
Any way you look at it, there is no justification to increase taxes on job creators, especially in the one booming area of our state’s economy. In fact, it has proven counterproductive to economic growth to increase taxes. This is a lesson we’ve learned over and over again through our country’s history — but for whatever reason it’s a lesson many still choose to ignore.
In Montana, our natural resource wealth and the jobs it is creating are paying off in a big way. We didn’t do it by raising taxes or increasing the size of government. All indications are that the potential for further growth in our energy industry will be one of the most important engines for job growth for many years to come.
We can’t allow Congress to put the brakes on our growth through ill-advised, economically-harmful tax policy. Tell your elected officials, in particular senators Baucus and Tester, to oppose any tax proposals aimed at increasing the tax burden of business. Especially the energy sector. We need the energy sector in Montana to continue leading us out of this recession.
(Wayne Stahl, a Republican from Saco, represents state House District 35 in northeastern Montana. His is a member of both the Taxation and Energy committees in the Legislature.)