Rep. Llew Jones

The halfway point of the 2023 legislature was March 3. How did theLegislature perform in the first half? Here’s my evaluation:

In the “Great” category: Eight major tax and appropriation bills await the governor’s signature. Montana’s income tax drops from 6.75% to 5.5%; there will be two $500 property tax rebates; capital gains taxes are lower; the business equipment tax is substantially reduced; $200 million in state debt and obligations will soon eliminated (my debt-free-in-2023 bill); and a $100 million infusion into the highway fund will leverage $800 million federal road construction dollars.

The 2023 Legislature already met its Article X Constitutional obligation to fund schools by passing the largest K-12 school funding package in Montana history.

On a personal note, HB 587, my $117 million permanent property tax cut, passed the House floor by a vote of 100-0. So far, the 2023 Legislature has delivered well.

In the “most disappointing” category: Most every part of the tax package was delivered with only Republican votes. Moreover, an unusual union between further left and right partisans has currently derailed bills that provide for school maintenance, teacher health care, and conservation district funding. I am hopeful the second half of the 2023 legislature will see some good bipartisan work.

In the “still to come” category: Currently, a recession fueled by headwinds from high interest and inflation appears likely. Financial planners advise clients to keep four to six months of cash on hand for rainy days. To do just that, I created Montana’s current savings account a few sessions back. My HB424 proposes Montana again retaining adequate state savings to mitigate a recession and/or tough fire season.

Unfortunately, there is resistance by legislators who consider reserves “slush funds.” If a recession were to occur without reserves, some on the “right” would likely propose slashing funding for schools, hospitals, nursing homes and prisons. The “left” would likely propose raising taxes. Real Montanans are harmed when legislators are shortsighted.

Other items still to come: Funding nursing homes and rural hospitals adequately; keeping mental health facilities open; providing additional options for students; and improving access to attainable housing.

While north central Montana has a strong conservative lean, I have met few hyperpartisan constituents. I hear often that constituents want more “good work” and less partisan bickering.

Much of today’s hyperpartisan political rhetoric brings to mind the song lyrics by Stealers Wheel: “Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right; Here I am, stuck in the middle with you.”

I have been outspoken that my focus is solutions and my approach one of civility and respect. We all can do good work together as Montanans if we focus on the goal of helping all Montana. We can develop our resources while respecting the environment. We can educate students while respecting parental rights. We can provide critical services while protecting taxpayers. We can defend our Second Amendment gun rights while respecting private property. We can refund and reduces taxes, keep reserves for a rainy day, and invest in Montana’s infrastructure needs. We can protect life through investing in life.

I am committed to doing good work for Montana while being civil and respectful to all. In the words of my father, “Keep ’er between the lines, boy!”

Neither too far right nor too far left. Good advice indeed.

Thank you for allowing me to be your representative.

Rep. Llew Jones, a Republican, serves the 18th District of the Montana House of Representatives.

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