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Montana Slams Travel, Big Pharma

by Richard Lipman / /

Brian Schweitzer is on a roll. The Montana governor has, this week alone, proposed raising taxes on just about every industry that has set foot in his great state – and a few that haven’t. Schweitzer’s rhetoric is carefully couched in the jargon of “closing loopholes” and making companies “pay their fare share” – he bills it as part of his plan to increase Montana revenue without increasing taxes.

The doublespeak is impressive.

The increased fees on the hotel industry, travel industry, and pharmaceutical industries will add up to tens of millions of dollars in new taxes. Maybe he thinks that this won’t affect Montana residents; that taxing Big Sky businesses will have no adverse effect on the workforce, or on tourism, or on the state’s precarious revenue.

In fact, Schweitzer is biting the very hands that feed him. Groups he’s singled out so far include the Interactive Travel Services Association, Travelocity, and PhRMA, among others. Specifically, just this week Travelocity unveiled its sponsorships of several major Montana festivals at the Montana Economic Development Summit.

The Helena Independent Record reports that: “Travelocity has seen a big spike in bookings to Montana since it recently launched promotions highlighting tourism events and destinations in the state”.

The money that tourists and festival attendees pay while in-state will far exceed a marginally higher “bed tax” paid by the companies bringing the most revenue to Montana. What Schweitzer fails to understand is that suddenly increasing taxes on every business doing business in his state is not a get-rich-quick scheme, it’s an exercise in futility.

He will not fill his state’s coffers with the bankrolls of  diabolical corporations. Instead, he will chase these businesses – businesses that already generate tax revenue, tourism revenue, jobs, and good PR – off his lawn and into states that have friendlier tax-laws, and recognize a good thing when they see it.

With multiple proposed tax increases within just a few days, targeting some of its biggest benefactors, Montana is en route to effortlessly destroy its own tourism industry. If Schweitzer gets his way, there will be a lot fewer planes flying through the Big Sky this fall.