Governor, there is a solution to budget woes

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I have a simple solution for Gov. Bullock’s budget woes. It’s a permanent tax increase, and it should be implemented immediately. Yes, you read that right; I propose an increase in taxes that will come from allowing business to exist in Montana unfettered.

In the Treasure State we are surrounded by gifts from God in the form of vast natural resources, yet we are not allowed to extract or utilize them. What company in its right mind would spend millions of dollars on environmental studies, permitting and developing a mine if it would be targeted immediately and forced to endure extensive courtroom battles? Montana could be generating a very large amount of income tax, business tax and job opportunities that would benefit our entire state.

Our western counties are on the verge of economic crisis, partially because of the loss of Montana’s timber industry, and yet we look outside and are surrounded by millions of acres of crowded timberland. Active forest management, allowing companies to breathe life into our timber industry, would generate income taxes so badly needed by the counties and sadly, Helena.

Radical environmental groups perpetually litigate and receive tax dollars, pocketed by the groups rather than being re-invested into the environment they use as a reason to profit. In spite of their missions, these groups haven’t spent any appreciable monies back into further improving or safeguarding the environment that surrounds us. They tout “caring and safeguarding” our environment, yet they litigate any attempt to properly manage the wonderful resources that surround us.

We all experienced the devastating consequences of this “environmental protection” this summer, with the worst fire season Montana has experienced in decades. The “let it burn” mentality forces us to spend increasing amounts to fight wildfires and defend communities instead of proactively engaging in fuel reduction and active management.

There is a video online from this summer of the Gibraltar Fire outside of Eureka showing a mechanical clipper cutting trees to construct a “shaded fire line,” a firefighting method used to slow a wildfire by dropping the fire from the crown of the trees where it burns hot and intense to the ground where it burns much less hot and naturally. This “logging operation” was being used to construct fire line just as effective as a raw dozer line ripped across the landscape, and the result allows logs to be salvaged and sold. We should learn from this and practice forest management as a tool rather than watching forests destroyed beyond salvage.

There is a spending problem in Helena and it starts with Gov. Bullock. He is attempting to put pressure on the Legislature to raise taxes and prop up government spending on the backs of hardworking Montanans. I say let’s create new tax revenue in Montana by increasing opportunities to bring in new business and produce more cash flow for our counties and for Helena. Let’s put our Great Natural Resources back to work as we put Montanans back to work.

Gunderson, a Libby Republican, represents Montana House District 1.

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