A custom-printed sign and line of local dignitaries greeted U.S. Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., when he walked into Kalispell’s Best Buy store Tuesday morning.
Daines has been touring Montana to tout the benefits of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act recently signed into law. He was joined in Kalispell Tuesday by the city’s mayor, Mark Johnson, Sen. Keith Regier, R-Kalispell, Rep. Carl Glimm, R-Kila, and the Kalispell Chamber of Commerce’s Kate Lufkin.
Best Buy was a fitting stop. On Feb. 4, the electronics retailer joined several other large firms that gave their employees a bonus – in this case, $1,000 for full-time workers and $500 for part-time – while citing the tax plan.
“It’s a really good thing to see more money in the pockets of hardworking Montanans,” Daines told the Daily Inter Lake.
He received a tour from General Manager Bob Bridges and Assistant Store Manager James Scott, speaking with employees in its “smart home” and IT support departments. Daines said one of the workers told him that he planned to spend his $1,000 on a new amplifier for his bass; another was planning to put the cash toward a future home.
“These are hardworking Montanans who work long hours, serving other Montanans in their capacity here in technology, and it’s nice to see more money in their pockets.”
Bridges, hosting his first member of Montana’s Congressional delegation in four years at the store, shared Daines’ enthusiasm for the tax bill. It “allowed Best Buy to bonus their employees,” he said.
The Senator claims to see the bill’s benefits extending beyond national chains. Both during his visit and in a recent press release, he pointed to Billings’ True North Steel as proof of the tax cuts’ success. “They have one of the largest back-orders of business they’ve seen as a result of the tax cut bill because it’s incentivizing capital purchases...That’s a good thing.”
But the massive overhaul of America’s tax code has plenty of critics, including Senator Jon Tester, D-Mont. During the race to pass the bill before 2017 ended, Tester made a widely-shared video decrying hastily-added amendments to the bill and the short time he’d been given to review it.
Asked if he’d had any qualms about passing the legislation so quickly, Daines noted that he was “very much in the middle of that process” of moving the bill through Congress, and that he had been “successful in getting additional tax relief for small businesses” in the bill.
“I was very pleased to see it get passed,” he said. “We’re starting to see the benefits now of more money in the pockets of Montanans.”
Five of the seven income tax brackets got a cut, and some deductions and credits were increased and added through 2025. “I’d like to see it made permanent, and we can do that,” Daines predicted.
That isn’t the only long-term question facing the tax bill. With federal revenues reduced by $1.5 trillion over the past decade, the government will have to either cut spending or borrow more, swelling the $20 trillion U.S. national debt. But Daines said that “it is not a revenue problem, it is a spending problem” faced by Washington
Tax cuts, Daines predicted, would “increase the economic growth of our country.” He said that “it will take 0.4 percent increase in the GDP to pay for those tax cuts. That will be a very easy bar to achieve, so the tax cuts will pay for that.”
This claim – that a .4 percent increase in the annual rate of GDP growth would spur the economy and increase revenue enough to offset the tax cuts – was made by other GOP lawmakers during the push to pass the bill. An analysis by the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget found that such an increase would raise about $1 trillion — below the bill’s full cost.
And studies of the bill’s various versions found it raising annual GDP growth by just .03 to .31 percent. An analysis from the University of Pennsylvania projects that it would actually reduce GDP growth by .01 percent from 2028 to 2040, as debt drags on the economy.
But such long-range forecasts weren’t on the agenda at Daines’ Tuesday visit to Best Buy. And Mayor Johnson was quick to voice support for the tax cuts.
“I want to thank Senator Daines for putting together the tax bill and getting this passed,” he said.
“I believe that the Montana citizen knows best what to do with their money, versus the federal government.”
Patrick Reilly can be reached at email@example.com, or at 758-4407.