Directed by the federal government to do so, The Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) has developed a draft “Carbon Reduction Strategy (CRS),” which it announced in a press release on September 20, was available for public review and comment until September 27.

The National Carbon Reduction Program (CRP) was signed into law as part of the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). It provides funding to states if they develop and promote projects aimed at reducing carbon emissions from vehicles and other transportation sources as determined by the Federal Highway Administration which oversees MDT. Under the law, each state must develop guidelines and regulations in consultation with local Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs).

MPOs are organizations required by the federal government, also under the auspices of the Federal Highway Administration (FHA), for communities reaching certain population levels in order for a community to get federal municipal planning & development funds, and to be eligible for transportation funds. Under a “Memorandum of Agreement for Continuing Transportation Planning in the Billings Urbanized Area” the function of an MPO is overseen by the MDT and the FHA.

One of the requirements of an MPO is to establish a city/ county Planning Board comprised of local citizens, which is administered by the city planning staff. A typical municipal planning department gets more than two-thirds of their funding from FHA.

In Montana, three cities are required to have MPOs – Great Falls, Missoula and Billings. In Billings the MPO is called the Policy Coordinating Committee (PCC). The committee is comprised of a city council representative, a county commissioner, a member of the Planning Board, MDT District Administrator, a representative from the state MDT, and the Division Administrator for FHA.

MDT states in a press release that the Montana CRS “provides a baseline summary of carbon emissions associated with Montana transportation and presents localized strategies. These strategies would be funded by the CRP, and include recommendations for implementation and monitoring efforts. The document is intended to assist transportation officials in making future project and program decisions to reduce carbon emissions.”

As of only September 20, the public was encouraged to view the document and comment on it. The press release said the proposal was available at https:// pubinvolve/crs/ beginning September 13, through Wednesday, September 27, 2023. Comments may be submitted online at or by contacting Vicki Crnich at 406-444-7653 or

The press release said that after considering public comments, a final version of the CRS will be posted to the state website.

The SBA’s 8(a) program is making a major change to social disadvantage narrative requirements in the wake of a court ruling influenced by the Supreme Court’s decision on affirmative action.

The Small Business Administration’s 8(a) Business Development program was meant to make available billions in government contracting dollars for “historically disadvantaged groups.” But in July, a federal judge in Tennessee struck down a provision of the program that equated race with social disadvantage.

The decision throws into disarray an SBA program that has served minority-owned small businesses for about five decades. Legal experts said it could signal trouble for other programs meant to help underrepresented groups win federal contracts, including veterans and women.

Under the new guidelines, being Black, Hispanic, Asian or Native American is no longer enough to automatically qualify as socially disadvantaged — a key step in making it into the program. Instead, in a mass email distributed Aug. 22 by SBA officials, business owners were instructed to submit an essay demonstrating that race had hindered their success.

On July 19, 2023, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee issued a ruling (Ultima Servs. Corp. v. Dep’t of Ag. (E.D. Tenn.) affecting the application process for determining eligibility for SBA’s 8(a) Program. 

All current 8(a) participants will receive additional, direct communication from the SBA detailing what, if any, additional information must be provided to SBA in order to continue Program participation. Potential participants who have already initiated an 8(a) application may continue to work on their applications but may be required to incorporate changes in the future. If that is the case, SBA will give them clear indication of the changes needed.

Montana’s colleges offer research facilities that could benefit the agricultural industry

In a website,, states are rated according to which are considered most highly educated. Population numbers seem to impact the outcomes, which leaves Montana is ranked 36th.

The report says, about Montana:

* Population: 1,084,225

* Percentage holding advanced degrees: 10.5%

* Median household income: $55,328

While the state might not be overflowing with a demand for advanced degrees, Montana still offers a lot to students. There are nearly a dozen higher education establishments here, with Montana State University apparently the best of the bunch. While it ranks 263rd on US News’ list, it reportedly boasts a ton of unique research facilities.

As might be expected of a state that highly favors agriculture, these facilities also focus around this industry. They include things like the Plant Growth Center and the Center for Bison and Wildlife Health. While advanced degrees aren’t always a necessity in Montana, having one in this field can still prove beneficial to help push the industry forward.

Montana is so suited to farming that advanced degrees are less of a necessity.

When it comes to population figures, some states rank much higher than others. Montana is one part of the United States that doesn’t fare highly in this regard. Only a handful of states have a smaller population than this western state. Why is this? Well, the prominence of agriculture might have something to do with it.

This industry has had the biggest impact on the state’s economy for centuries, with the land perfectly suited to farming. Again, this might explain why Montana doesn’t rank amongst the most educated states in the US. With its biggest industry not typically requiring advanced degrees, it makes sense that only 10.5% of the population holds one.

With 20.3% of the population holding advanced degrees, Massachusetts ranks at the top of the list for most educated.

By Samuel Stebbins, The Center Square

The U.S. defense budget topped $850 billion in fiscal 2022, more than the combined military spending of the next 10 countries combined. This money goes to fund a wide range of obligations, from operations to payroll for troops and civilian defense personnel. The bulk of the U.S. military budget, however, is spent on contracts with companies in the private sector.

The Defense Department does more business through private contracts than all other federal agencies combined. The Pentagon relies on contractors for services including research and development, weapon systems procurement, facility maintenance, and equipment repair. Outsourcing to third parties in the private sector allows the government to more rapidly and effectively adapt to changing circumstances and needs – though reliance on contractors also raises the potential for waste, fraud, and abuse.

The latest available government data shows that the Pentagon spent $246.8 million on private sector contracts in Montana in 2021. No company in the state received more federal defense dollars that year than S & K Technologies, which brought in $65.7 million in military contracts – or 26.6% of all contractor spending in the state.

Other major defense contractors operating in Montana include Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, James Talcott Construction, Inc., and T & L Sales, which received $25.1 million, $13.7 million, and $12.4 million, respectively, in 2021.

Quote Wizard News analysts found that there has been a 13% decrease in drug related overdose deaths in Montana over the last year – that’s the 4th highest decrease nationwide.

Key Findings for Montana:

* 178 people died of an overdose in the last 12 months

* Overdose deaths nationwide have risen more than 60% in the past 5 years

* Nationally, opioids are found in nearly 70% of overdoses

Montana’s counties are taking a proactive stance on property tax concerns by formally requesting clarity and accountability from the Montana Department of Revenue (DOR). In letters addressed to the Department, Beaverhead, Carbon, Carter, Custer, Lincoln, Missoula, Park, and Ravalli counties have asked that DOR provide the calculation limiting the State’s 95 statewide mills, as well as identification of who is responsible for authorizing property tax increases beyond the statutory limitations.

The recent communication with DOR comes on the heels of an unanswered request from Beaverhead County to Montana’s Attorney General, Austin Knudsen, seeking an opinion on the interpretation of laws related to the calculation of the statewide mills, which significantly impact property tax bills for constituents throughout Montana. According to the request, the State of Montana has consistently levied 95 mills annually, despite a provision in Montana law (Montana Code Annotated 15-10-420) that requires a reduction in levying authority when taxable values increase.

This move by the counties underscores their commitment to transparency and responsible fiscal management, emphasizing the importance of local government control in property tax levies. Montana’s counties seek to ensure that property tax increases are justified, understood, and in line with the needs and expectations of Montana’s residents.

To help show that counties are holding property taxes in line while the State increases them, the Montana Association of Counties (MACo) calculated property tax changes for Governor Gianforte’s private mansion in Helena.

“Surprisingly, his taxes will DECREASE year over year because his appraised value only increased 7.59%,” stated Mineral County Commissioner Roman Zylawy. “The limitations on local government result in a decreased tax burden for his home, with the exception of the State levies which haven’t followed the statutory limitations that cities and counties must follow.”

According to MACo’s calculations, the total property tax for the Governor’s Helena home in 2022 was $7,837.15; whereas in 2023, it is projected to be $7,407.55, which is a decrease of $429.60. Overall, Governor Gianforte’s taxes went down, but his state property taxes increased 8%. The City of Helena taxes went down 4%; Lewis & Clark County went down 11%; local school levies down 4%; and county voted levies down 13%.

“We think this is a perfect example highlighting the need for consistency, transparency, and fairness in property tax calculations,” said Beaverhead County Commissioner Mike McGinley. “It clearly shows that the reduction is due to local governments adhering to our statutory mill levy limitations, and the sole increase in his property taxes exists in only those mills collected by the State, which are within the control of the Governor’s Office.” 

“Montana counties are committed to addressing property tax concerns promptly, reiterating their dedication to responsible spending, essential services provision, and keeping property taxes as low as possible for their residents,” stated Fergus County Commissioner Ross Butcher. “They are calling on the state to follow their lead in maintaining transparency and fiscal responsibility in property tax calculations.”

Underscoring the fiscal responsibility of counties, Custer County Commissioner Jason Strouf said, “Over the years, Custer County has provided cost-of-living wage increases for our valued employees. We have built infrastructure utilizing existing revenue.  We have only one voter-approved general obligation bond which was to build a new detention center that holds both the State and the County inmates. This year, again, our mills are decreasing, and we have balanced our budget while following the requirements of MCA 15-10-420.”

Liberty County Commissioner Joette Woods agrees, stating, “Liberty County believes in transparency at all levels of government.  Our county has seen minimal taxable increases and high inflation rates.  Yet, we rise to the challenge and continue to be fiscally responsible with no new money.”

“At the end of the day, we, as counties, are committed to following the law,” said McGinley. “We are simply asking the State and the Governor’s Office to do the same and to do what is right for the people of Montana.”

The Small Business Administration (SBA) has implemented new rules that support the Biden-Harris Administration’s economic and equity priorities. Called the Growth Final Rule SBA Administrator Isabella Casilla Guzman said that the regulatory and policy reforms will increase access to private equity and debt capital for:

 • Underserved small businesses and startups,

• Undercapitalized critical technologies,

• Diverse and emerging fund managers, and

• Innovation investment. Starting Private market fund managers can apply for SBIC licenses designed for investing in American small businesses and startups with equity-oriented or long-duration strategies.

The two new SBIC licenses – the “Accrual SBIC” and the “Reinvestor (Fund-of# Funds) SBIC” – expand the SBIC program network of private market financing partners and the SBA’s reach to historically underserved small businesses and startups.

Critically, the regulatory and policy reforms are designed to reduce the financial burden for new program applicants and provide a more streamlined application experience.

Since 1958, the SBA has licensed and regulated private market investment funds as “SBICs.” SBICs invest equity or lend private capital, plus funds borrowed with an SBA guarantee, to make equity and/or debt investments in small businesses and startups. Today, the SBIC program is comprised of more than 308 discrete private funds across mezzanine, private credit, buyout, growth, venture, and multi-strategy, which collectively have more than $40 billion in public and private assets under management (AUM). Last year, SBICs invested $8 billion in more than 1,500 companies that created and sustained over 103,000 U.S. jobs. ?

There are 29 states in which President Biden has a lower approval rating than in Montana, according to The Center Square. In Montana, Biden has an approval rating of 38 percent while 59 percent disapprove, based on a survey of registered voters who participated in the November 2022 midterm election.

In the 2020 presidential election Trump took 56.9 percent of the vote and Biden 40.5 percent in Montana. Montana’s population is the seventh smallest in the country at 1,077,978.

The Headwaters Technology Hub, a broad regional consortium of private, public, and academic partners led by the Montana Chamber of Commerce, Montana Department of Commerce, and the Montana University System submitted a Phase I application on August 15 in pursuit of the U.S. Department of Commerce and Economic Development Administration’s Regional Technology and Innovation Hubs competition, as part of the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022.

 The Headwaters Technology Hub seeks one of at least 20 Tech Hub designations nationally, and separately a strategy development grant. Funds come from the $500 million FY2023 Congressional appropriation to launch the program. This investment focuses on strengthening our national defense, critical resource management (including water, agriculture, and mining), industrial equipment and construction processes, infrastructure development, and natural disaster mitigation.

“The Montana Chamber serves as the bridge between local innovation and national technological advancement by fostering collaboration and creating opportunities between our businesses, government agencies and research institutions,” said Todd O’Hair, President & CEO of the Montana Chamber of Commerce. “Our deep understanding of the state’s economic landscapes uniquely positions us to champion this initiative to drive growth, job creation, and technological leadership, and to propel the nation towards a more resilient and competitive future, with our region leading the way.”

A recent report from the National Park Service (NPS) shows that approximately 2.9 million visitors to Glacier National Park in 2022 spent an estimated $368 million in communities near the park. That spending supported 5,690 jobs in the local area. Overall, the figures show the total benefit to the local economy including secondary businesses tallied up to $548 million.

Both national parks have probably foregone potential visitors from other countries over the past couple years because many foreign travelers are giving the US a wide berth due to reported violence, long waits for visas and geo politics, according to Forbes. The magazine said that the US has been losing $20 billion a year in tourism dollars.

There was a 68 percent drop in visitors from China, for whom the two national parks have always been a popular destination. That could change somewhat, now, since China recently lifted their restrictions on on group travel to the US. It was estimated that normally 3 million visitors come to the US every year.