How much impact do tax policies have?

The Tax Foundation has ranked Montana as Number Two among states to gain population due to Interstate Migration. As a percentage of population Montana gained 1.14 percent in population from 2019-2020 in population based upon an analysis of address changes from the IRS.  Idaho was Number 1 with 2. 05 percent. Arizona was Number 3 with 1.10 percent.

In total 28 states gained in population including Florida, Texas, North Carolina, and South Carolina—while 22 states and the District of Columbia experienced a net loss—led by New York, California, Illinois, Massachusetts, and New Jersey. Washington DC was actually the “state” to have had the greatest out migration with a loss of -2.17 percent, followed by New York with -1. 28 percent. North Dakota was 47th with a loss of – 0.72 percent in population, followed by California with a loss of -0.67 percent.

Reports the Tax Foundation: “For many years, policymakers, journalists, and taxpayers have debated the role state tax policy plays in individuals’ and businesses’ location decisions. Annual data about who is moving—and where—provide clues about the factors contributing to these moves.”

The Tax Foundation explained that these data, capture many of the interstate moves made early in the pandemic—between mid-March and mid-July 2020—but do not necessarily capture the bulk of pandemic-related moves, many of which occurred later in 2020 and even into 2021. It is more accurate however, than the more timely reports provided by moving companies. The IRS data are by default more comprehensive and provide important insights into the movement of adjusted gross income (AGI) among states.

When all individuals associated with each tax return are accounted for, including spouses and dependents, only one state, Wisconsin, saw a loss in tax returns attributable to interstate migration but a gain in individuals associated with the returns of those who moved in.

“Many factors influence an individual’s or family’s decision to move from one state to another….Cost-of-living considerations, including tax differentials, may not be the primary reason for an interstate move, but they are often one of several factors people consider when deciding whether—and where—to move.”

With this in mind, one observation from the 2019-2020 IRS migration data is that a strong positive relationship exists between state tax competitiveness and inbound migration. Overall, states with lower taxes and sound tax structures experienced stronger inbound migration than states with higher taxes and more burdensome structures.

Of the 10 states that experienced the largest gains in income taxpayers, five do not levy individual income taxes on wage or salary income at all, and two others had top marginal individual income tax rates that were below the national median at the time. Recently, those states have grown even more competitive. Nine of the top 10 states either forgo individual income taxes on wage and salary income, have a flat income tax, or are moving to a flat income tax.

Additionally, among the 28 states that experienced net inbound migration of income tax filers, only nine had a top marginal individual income tax rate above the national median. Meanwhile, among the 22 states (and the District of Columbia) that experienced net outbound migration of income tax filers, 15 states and D.C. had top marginal rates above the median. In the aggregate, states with a top marginal rate at or below the 2019 median of 5.4 percent gained 225,000 net new residents from the states with rates above the median.

A robust positive relationship also exists between states with below-average state and local tax collections per capita and those experiencing strong inbound migration. Of the 28 states that saw a net gain in income tax filers due to interstate migration, 22 had below-average state and local tax collections per capita in fiscal year 2020, while half of the states that experienced net outbound migration had above-average collections per capita.

Furthermore, a strong positive relationship exists between states with well-structured tax codes and those that experience net inbound migration. Among the 25 best ranking states on the 2020 State Business Tax Climate Index, which had a snapshot date of July 1, 2019, 20 states experienced net inbound migration between 2019 and 2020. Meanwhile, among the 25 worst ranking states on the Index, 17 experienced a net loss of taxpayers to interstate migration.

The Tax Foundation advises, “The reason policymakers should care about their state’s interstate migration patterns is the effect of interstate migration on tax revenue, economic output, and economic growth over time. Between 2019 and 2020, most states that experienced a net loss in income tax filers attributable to interstate migration also experienced a net loss in income associated with interstate migration, while most states that gained taxpayers also experienced corresponding gains in AGI.

Hawaii was the only state to lose residents on net yet experience a net gain in AGI, with new residents bringing in an average of $75,000 in AGI per return while departing residents had an average of $64,000 per return. Meanwhile, only three states—Indiana, Kentucky, and Missouri—saw a net gain in income tax filers but a net loss in AGI, with new residents earning less on average than the people who moved out.

Some of this is due to cost-of-living adjustments that tend to occur when individuals leave employment in one state for employment in another. For example, even if their job duties are substantially similar, a registered nurse employed in a high-cost-of-living state is likely to have a higher salary than one employed in a lower-cost-of-living state due to cost-of-living considerations that affect market rate earnings in different parts of the country.

There is evidence, however, that in states like Hawaii, the loss of relatively lower-income residents is somewhat attributable to high taxes and high costs of living causing lower- and middle-income residents to seek more affordable destinations elsewhere. Notably, four of the top five states Hawaii residents moved to—Washington, Texas, Nevada, and Florida—forgo individual income taxes on wage income.

Likewise, some of the gain of relatively lower-income residents in Indiana, Kentucky, and Missouri is likely due to the relatively low cost of living in those states compared to other locations. Crucially for economic growth, however, a low tax environment also encourages investment and entrepreneurial decision-making and attracts highly mobile higher earners as well.

By Evelyn Pyburn

Some many years ago, a school board in the area had been meeting, since forever, in closed sessions with no media ever covering them. The first time a reporter showed up they were shocked – shocked that what they did, said and decided was something the public should know about. It took them awhile, but they got used to it.

It’s been decades ago now, when I attended my first meeting of the MetraPark Advisory Board and found that there, too, was very strong resistance to open meetings. Meetings were “posted” by tacking an agenda up across the hall from the manager’s office. No financial information was available. In order to keep from disclosing what was being talked about the agenda items were numbered on a sheet of paper which the manager then passed out only to board members. When the board voted on something it was identified only as Item No. 6 or whatever number it was.

I was once directly asked to leave. Another time the meeting was held as a barbecue in the backyard yard of one board member with no invitation to the media, specifically to avoid the media.

When the lack of transparency was brought up to the county commissioners at the time, I was told “We don’t micromanage.”

I heard a story about how another public board didn’t want a reporter present and they ended their meeting, with the intent of moving it to a restaurant, only to be followed by a Gazette reporter, who continued for the rest of the evening following them from location to location.

Then there was the time that the president of a public board, called for a break in the meeting, and one by one the board members stepped out in the hallway to confer about something they didn’t want to talk about openly.

A similar gambit now, with current technology, is to hold what essentially amounts to a meeting by contacting each board member individually. While that can be legal, so long as it is “noticed” and the text or email  data is made public, if it is done to avoid being public it is illegal under Montana law.

Still another public body decided they could side- step open meetings by creating a secondary “private” non-profit organization. Then they got a local attorney to declare that as such it was not required to abide by the state’s open meeting and public information laws. That legal opinion was called “hogwash” by a much better lawyer, who pointed out that Montana law says that if an entity takes so much as $1 of taxpayer funds they must abide by open meeting laws. And, of course, they were using taxpayer funds. Not letting the public know how they were spending the money was the whole point of it all.

More recently, the leader of a gathering of public officials speculating about solutions to a problem refused to tell the Yellowstone County News the details. Fortunately another member of the group was much more forthright and provided the information.

For all those who want to conduct business in the dark, there are, indeed, public servants of greater caliber who are forthright and want daylight shone upon their activities. So it is quite often that media is made aware of situations by those who understand and respect the public they are serving.

Among all the board members, years ago, at MetraPark, who should have known better and should have stood up for the law, there were a couple who were exemplary – and one poor guy brought the wrath of the group down upon himself by attempting to get his cohorts to comply with the law.  He is an individual to be admired.

In another case, I felt I had my own “deep throat” because of periodic phone calls I got from a woman who refused to identify herself.

There was only one incident, however, in which I witnessed a board member stand up and declare that he was leaving if they were going to close a meeting to discuss a subject that should have been public.

It is surprising to see how frequent, persistent and creative some citizen representatives are when trying to circumvent the public’s right to know. Why they do it is a baffling mystery.

While I used to get quite anxious about it, I don’t anymore because I learned that sooner or later, whatever they are trying to hide comes out  — at least if the media is playing its role – and however bad they thought it might be, when it finally does come out, it is ten times worse than if they had just dealt with it honestly.

If you serve on a public body or hold a public office, and you and others are trying to manipulate the minutia of law to hold a meeting so that the public or media are not in “the know” —  STOP! STOP! STOP!

Or maybe you are sending emails between meetings, or making phone calls, or passing notes under the table. Again, STOP IT! Stop and resign your position immediately, because if you are not there to serve the public – to be a liaison for those you are trying to deceive – then you have no business holding such a position.

There is nothing – absolutely nothing — that you should know about that should not be public knowledge (except the very, very limited provisions for personnel privacy allowed for by law and even that does not provide as much cover as many like to extend.)

The primary purpose of whatever role you serve in government is to provide honest and open government – one which every citizen can trust. It is an excruciatingly important role and to violate your pledge to do so is contemptable.

Government cannot be corrupt if the full light of day shines upon its actions and media reports it. Even if, at one moment in time, it seems a greater good would be served by keeping something secret that seldom if ever proves to be the case. If you can handle the truth, so can your neighbors. Trust to citizens to ultimately make the right decisions – they are who you serve – all of them, not some favored few.

Getting your way, “by hook or by crook,” is the method and mentality of tyrants and power mongers who never serve the greater good. A peaceful, civilized and free society withstands mistakes or poor decisions far, far better than they do the dictatorial powers of those who perceive themselves to be superior and invincible.

A new federal law passed in 2020 is set to expand the role of the U.S. Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) to collect and store confidential personal information about small businesses that have fewer than 20 full-time employees. As a part of the federal government’s moves to begin enforcing the new law, FinCEN recently released a final rule stating how the new law – known as the Corporate Transparency Act (CTA) – will take effect.  

The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) and small business owners have long opposed the CTA and key voted against it in the 116th Congress. Eighty percent of small business owners opposed the law in a 2018 Federal Member Ballot, according to the NFIB. However, the new rule did not provide the much-needed clarity on reporting requirements that NFIB members and small business owners were fighting to secure.

“FinCEN failed to strike a balance on which businesses must report, what information must be reported, and when the information must be reported,” said Jeff Brabant, NFIB Director of Federal Government Relations. “At the same time, under this rule, many small businesses will not know if they need to register with FinCEN, with the prospect of civil and criminal penalties hanging over their head for non-compliance. This will inevitably lead to small businesses contracting out the reporting requirements with consultants at a significant cost.”

NFIB is concerned that FinCEN has failed to adequately define what businesses must report. FinCEN defines a reporting company as any company with 20 or fewer employees that was created by filing paperwork with a Secretary of State or similar state agency. With 50 different states having 50 different standards and practices for incorporating, this can potentially lead to business owners being unsure if they must report or not. For example, some states require sole proprietorships and general partnerships to register with state agencies and some states do not. 

The new rule is effective January 1, 2024. Reporting companies created or registered before that date will have one year (until January 1, 2025) to file their initial reports, while reporting companies created or registered after January 1, 2024, will have 30 days after creation or registration to file their initial reports.

Once the initial report has been filed, both existing and new reporting companies will have 30 days from a change in beneficial ownership information to file updates.

FinCEN has plans to consider additional proposals that will establish rules for who may access beneficial ownership information, for what purposes, and what safeguards will be required to ensure that the information is secured and protected.

FinCEN is still in the process of developing the infrastructure to administer these requirements, including the information technology system that will be used to store beneficial ownership information in accordance with the strict security and confidentiality requirements of the CTA.

Financial Crimes Enforcement Network Improvement Act

NFIB has opposed the original CTA since it first started moving through Congress several years ago, but NFIB members have been pushing for Congress to pass the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network Improvement Act, H.R. 7623, since it was introduced in April.

Following extensive bargaining, Governor Greg Gianforte and public employee unions have reached an agreement for the state pay plan. Covering the 2024-2025 biennium, the agreement includes wage increases, health benefit cost freezes, one-time payments, and other far-reaching contractual changes.

The agreement includes a $1.50 per hour or 4% raise—whichever is greater—on July 1 each year of the upcoming biennium. Single members’ out-of-pocket health benefit contributions, copay amounts, deductibles, and co-insurance costs will not increase through 2025. Additionally, one-time payments prorated to a 40-hour work week and worth up to $1,040 will be provided to every employee. The agreement also provides increased meal per diems and the addition of an annual flexible holiday which will replace every other year’s Election Day holiday.

Unions representing public employees bargain a state pay plan with the governor prior to every legislative session. The bargained pay plan must then be approved by the legislature.

By Roger Koopman

They called him Reinhart, but he would one day change his name to Ralph to sound more American than German.  Huddled with his parents and three siblings in steerage class, he arrived at Ellis Island at the age of one.  He grew up on Pitkin Avenue in Brooklyn, while his father scratched out a living as best he could.  Henry had brought his family to America “to escape the Kaiser and his wars,” while seeking the freedom of a free land.  Although he had very little, he thought himself rich.  He had come to America, kissed the ground and never looked back.

The street kids picked on Reinhart for being a “kraut,” but he didn’t care.  He was bright and talented, but college was out of the question, so he drove a gasoline truck for many years, while helping his father and brother build two houses from scratch – one for his parents, one for his sister.  He eventually worked his way up to foreman, married the love of his life and was able to purchase a modest home of his own.  His three kids still remember him getting up at 4:00 a.m. each day, then coming home smelling like fuel oil.  They don’t ever remember him complaining though, because he never did.  

When the kids approached college age, his wife began working full time too, and somehow, they were able to put all three boys through school.  He loved the outdoors, he loved his family, but in a way, he loved America most of all, and displayed the flag with great pride on his front lawn.  A frugal man, he saved enough to retire and to one day support his wife after his passing.  She moved to Montana and died after a good and full life of 95 years.

He was my father, and he lived the American Dream.  His American Dream.

Recently, the Bozeman Library hosted their annual “Symbozium,” featuring two college professors, a social scientist and an “equity architect.”  Panelists were asked to discuss the “mythology” of the American Dream, and answer the question of whether the American Dream is alive, dead or barely breathing.  Characterized as a community “conversation” and “participatory… civil discourse,” the program only allowed public participation by filling out small cards with questions for the panel.  The moderator then screened out most of the questions, summarizing the few he liked in his own words.

To be fair, the library folks had probably hoped for something much better.  They were kind enough to listen to my concerns, a few days before the event.  I suggested that programs like this are only interesting and educational when there is disagreement among the featured speakers, with a diversity of philosophies and political opinions expressed.  As I predicted, these panelists didn’t disagree on anything for the entire 90 minutes!  I also pointed out that for the public to truly participate, microphones should be available in addition to the little cards (which the moderator mostly ignored anyway.)  Unfortunately, at that late hour, they didn’t feel it was possible to add a person with a divergent or competing viewpoint to the panel, and roving microphones weren’t seen as an option, either. 

Thus, a potentially fascinating program  turned into pretty much of a boring bust.  The unanimously left-leaning panelists, while making some interesting observations, largely missed the core meaning of the American Dream, which is not about victimhood, group discrimination, ethnic identity, government programs or equity-based public policies.  It is about individual opportunity and individual freedom – made possible only by the wealth creation and colorblindness of a free market economy, combined with a Constitution-honoring government that spends no more than it receives, protects property right and leaves people the heck alone.

Ralph Reinhart Koopman, were he with us today, could have told the audience that, even without a college degree.  So could millions of others like him, who realized their own dreams in their own individual ways.

Community and campus programs too often become echo chambers of like-minded people, reinforcing their leftist philosophies.  We can — we must – do better than that.

Roger Koopman ran a career placement service in Bozeman for 37 years, helping tens of thousands reach for their particular versions of the American Dream.

Custom Bilt Metals, 3001 N Skyway Circle – Ste 160, Irving TX, 214-699-4871,  Anne Alexander, retail sales

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Trident Contracting & Design, 423 Kuhlman Dr, 698-7821, Jeremy Austin, general contractors

Dragonfly Recovery Resources LLC, 206 N 29th St #24, 598-9032, Darlene Woodenlegs, service

The Floor Doctor, 505 24th St w, 425-0303, James and Michelle Scarber, service

Fingers and Fries, 435 Sherwood, 647-7976, Nathaniel Davis, restaurants

Town Pump of Billings 13, 3975 King Ave W – Ste 1, 998-6643, beer license

Montana Lil’s Casino & Liquor Store, 3975 King Ave w – Ste 2, 998-6642, Silver Tip Lounge Corporation, liquor license

Magic City Maids, 428 Kuhlman Dr, 850-4484, Jade Matte, service

BW Blacksmith Coffee (Lewis), 2335 Lewis Ave, 386-965-2420, Laura Willems, restaurant

Omega Home Maintenance, 2122 Pueblo Dr, 861-5234, Brian Longenecker, service

Like Home LLC, 731 Sapphire Ave, 880-5368, Patrick O’Neill, real estate rental

Treasure State Travel, 1118 Minuteman St, 591-7885, Brad Hrubes, service

Lowkey Lofi LLC, 3225 McLeod Dr – Ste 100, Las Vegas, NV, 201-5370, Skye Jackson, service

Pundit LLC, 631 N 26th St, 647-2132, Phillips Bridges, real estate rental

Arts Market, 317 N 13th St, 248-7446, Andrew Thompson, retail sales

Shebee Random, 3061 S Daffodil, 694-8677, Autumn Hengelfelt/Krista Alden, retail sales

Grizzly Prep MT, 205 Erie Dr – Ste 2, 698-2729, Alexandra Meiers, retail sales

Fresco Juice Co, 2710 1st Ave N – Ste 102, 698-5969, Cindy Beers, restaurants

Barbara Garrett Fine Art, 1660 Country Manor Blvd #223B, retail sales

Crudades Construction, 17 Jackson St, 850-2552, Michael Machler, Autumn Hengelfelt/Krista Alden, retail sales

Lindsey Byars, 5535 Elysian Rd, 200-1410, Lindsey Byars, real estate rental

Longhorn Contracting, 8050 S workshop, 490-3392, 490-3392, Shelby Wilkey, service

Swift Mobile Oil LLC, 2120 Yellowstone Ave, 420-8580, Brendon Swift/Jacob Montgomery, service

F&H Contracting & Fence LLC, 1010 Yellowstone Ave #1, 694-8143, Teran Fitch/Kyle Fitch, service

Sharp Services, 1098 Sierra Granda Blvd, Jared Sharp, general contractors

Seaspace International Forwarders USA Inc, 5332 Green Teal Dr, 925-468-0100, Kevin & Marilena Beehn, service

KF Bookkeeping Solutions, 2928 Beech Ave, 281-2962, Kristen Frank, service

Alay’s Home Services, 3900 Olympic Blvd, Apt H202, 694-6300, Alaina Sisk, service

Majic City Ballons, 1409 Topanga Ave, 927-2682, Donya Wimer, service

North West Beauty Supply LLC, 1313 Grand Ave #7, 714-322-1662, Baotram Nguyen, wholesale

Rimrock Hobbies, 811 16th St W – Ste B, 259-5354, Liam Dunne, retail sales

Wovek Inc, 3970 Ave D – Ste A, 969-5444, Kevin Wood, general contractors

Top Deck Medical Aesthetics, 670 King Park Dr – Ste 5, 490-5220, Jamie Decker, service

Delta Family Therapy, 206 N 29th St – Ste 26, 925-565-7535, Rachel Stegman, service

Gia Lawncare & Snow Removal, 135 Monarch St, 598-3943, Richard Todd, service

Sachithra/Gregory Arno, 6027 Catherina Ct, 672-5876, Gregory Arno, real estate rental

Gregory Arno, 6027 Catherina Ct, 240-6997, Gregory Arno, service

Cutthroat Lawn Service, 1837 Ave E, 661-6366, Justice Lofgren, service

Oddball Werx, 1133 Yellowstone Ave, 647-0064, Alan Andrews, service

Toddler Town Daycare, 2376 Main St, 307-840-1197, Teresa Ganenbein, service

Yellowstone Country Club, 3200 Paul Allen Way, 656-1701, Jeffrie Hunter, liquor license

Everbright Cleaning Services, 315 S 26th St, 860-3358, Noah Price, service

Mountain Man Defense LLC, 4427 Ryan Ave, 366-6739, Hunter Cattaneo, retail sales

Regenerative Health 360, 1223 Mullowney Ln, 704-891-7796, Jeffrey Jones, service

Yellowstone Exteriors, 2616 Lillis Ln, 601-0499, Andrew Buchholz, general contractors

Sterrett Construction, 1843 Wicks Ln, 661-3524, Nathaniel Sterrett, general contractors

Classy n Sassy Coffee LLC (Henesta), 2021 Henesta Dr, 370-1752, Cassandra Dennison, restaurants

Spotlight Productions Inc, 2120 Sunnyview Ln, 698-8278, Anne Gauer, service

E-Rock Masonry, 941 Lewis Ave, 946-2915, Eric Slehofer, service

Gray’s Electric, 738 N Burnt Fork Rd, Stevensville, 552-2617, David Gray, electrical contractors

Mission Freedom LLC, 3433 Glenfinnan Rd, 707-304-0909, Ethan Auch, retail sales

Sweet Doggy Good, 510 18th St W, 608-3377, Deanna Caluya, retail sales

Neumann Construction LLC, 321 S 24th St W – Ste 1, 670-8383, Tony Neumann, general contractors

Two Whistle Construction LLC, 1177 Hemingway Ave, 998-9042, Rudy Old Crow, general contractors

Sweet Tooth, 3941 Rimrock Rd, 672-1594, Cindy Sahli, restaurants

Black Diamond Decks, 2337 Gleneagles Blvd, 591-0621, Trevin Ophus, general contractors

 Alex Allred, 4506 Bowman Dr, 697-1604, Alex Allred, service

Sigsys Inc, 1932 E Deere Ave #220, Santa Ana CA, 949-825-6031, Larry Michael, general contractors

Jaybird Services LLC, 884 Tierra Dr, n/a, Jeremiah & Tami Goff, service

 MT Paving LLC, 524 ½ NE Main, Lewistown MT, 498-4166, James Uzlic

ADK Consulting LLC, 801 Providence Island Ct, Jacksonville FLA,  904-536-8102, Douglas Kuelpman, service

The Brush Brothers, 2115 Canyon Dr, 855-4729, Kyle Jones, service

Montana Electrical Services, 1162 El Rancho Dr, 530-5004, James Sims, electrical contractors

NW Extreme Installers dba Premier Services Group, 8800 SE Sunnyside Rd – Ste 3155, Clackamas OR,  971-377-2197, Rich Smothers, general contractors

Security View LLC, 5301 Bell Ave, 561-3497, Jade Evenson, service

Lake Painting Company, 11509 Rose Ave, Atwater CA, 209-648-8918, Marvin Lake, service

Fat Taco Food Truck, 501 2nd Ave, Laurel MT, 855-5500, Jamie Frank, restaurants

Daisey Jones Closet/Kellerman Designs, 4240 Trailmaster Dr, 208-3588, Marilyn Haney, retail sales

Puppybreathe Poms of Yellowstone, 4240 Trailmaster Dr, 208-3588, Marilyn Haney, service

Real Bird Camp, 818 2nd St West, Hardin MT, 860-2806, Lucy Real Bird, retail sales

A new study found Montana is the No. 6 Best state to succeed in business heading into 2023 and shows a major shift in the four largest state economies in a post-pandemic world. The study was conducted by Harrington Group International , which released a report — the Best and Worst States to Succeed in Business — after analyzing data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Census Bureau, and the Bureau of Economic Analysis data from 2020 to 2022.

New York and California are among the 10 worst states while Florida and Texas are the top two best states which can be attributed to educated workers relocating to the latter seeking tax breaks and opportunities in these burgeoning business centers.

Business owners are grappling with an unprecedented shift in how Americans work, spend and live and during this period of economic uncertainty some states are better off than others.

The rankings were determined by analyzing factors such as net migration of educated workers, job growth, consumer spending, taxes, the startup survival rate, and more.  

Key findings:

*Montana: Jobs (+2.3%), Net Migration of Educated Workers (+8.763), Consumer Spending (+14.9%), Startup Survival Rate (56.4%), GDP (-1.1%), Credit Rating (AA), Income Tax Revenue (55.6%).

*Four Largest Economies – Net Migration of Educated Workers: New York: -162,377, California: -190,046, Florida: +133,518, Texas +61,992.

*  10 Best States: Florida, Texas, Tennessee, South Dakota, Idaho, Montana, South Carolina, North Carolina, Nevada, and Oregon. 

* 10 Worst States: Connecticut, Illinois, New York, Kansas, D.C., Hawaii, New Hampshire, California, Missouri, and Louisiana.

Overall, Montanans have become more affluent as the influx of people moving into the state have tended to be more affluent than the average citizen. According to Bryce Ward, a Montana economist and consultant, between 2019 and 2021, the number of Montana households earning $200,000 or more per year increased by nearly 12,000, or 63%.

By far, Montana saw the largest percentage increase of wealthy households during the pandemic compared with all other states in the U.S. based upon American Community Survey data.

There were 18,918 such households before the pandemic in the state with incomes over $200,000. Now there are 30,784.

“Data confirm what many Montanans have already noticed,” Ward wrote on Twitter. “Lots more ‘rich’ people live in Montana.”

Ward said, that Montana in the last decade has gone from one of the states with the smallest slices of wealthy households to middle of the pack.

The next closest states to see such drastic increases were Rhode Island and Vermont at 50% and Utah at 44%. Several states, like North Dakota, Illinois and California, saw a decrease of wealthy households. In the U.S. overall it was about 20%.

The next closest states to see such drastic increases were Rhode Island and Vermont at 50% and Utah at 44%. Several states, like North Dakota, Illinois and California, saw a decrease of wealthy households. In the U.S. overall it was about 20%.

The surge in high-income households in Montana over that two-year period was the highest percentage increase for any state over any two-year period of the last decade. The previous record was Montana during 2011-2013 at 59% and Idaho between 2017-2019, also at 59%.

“There was inflation and wage growth kind of everywhere, but we got a lot more households earning over $200,000 than other places did,” Ward explained. “Given that wages generally weren’t rising here faster than nationally in that period, that suggests to me that some people that were earning a lot of money chose to move to Montana at disproportionally high rates during the pandemic. And that’s consistent with what a lot of people have observed with their own eyes.”

 “In 2011, Montana’s share of households earning over $200,000 was like 2%,” he explained. “Now we’re at 6.5%. In 2011, Montana was fifth from the bottom, and now we’re basically the median state. We’ve disproportionately grown households at the top income level relative to other states and the nation as a whole.”

Ward said that the rise in wealthy households is “the thread that runs through a lot of conversations” in Montana.

“It’s the old Montana versus the new Montana,” he said. “There was always money floating around, but over the course of the last decade and particularly the last two years it has really ratcheted up. Money is powerful within a market society. Things get shaped by those people, and people notice those changes.”

Montana’s rise in high-income households also coincided with a drastic increase in housing prices. Between the last quarter of 2019 and the first quarter of 2022, the median home sales price in Montana rose 41%. In Missoula and Kalispell, that number was 51%.

Montana’s home construction did not keep up with demand during the last decade, and especially during the pandemic.

“If I’m a wealthy person or a person with a higher income coming in from out-of-state, competing for the same house with a local, the out-of-state person can win,” Ward said. “Then the person who’s local feels like they’re getting squeezed out. That’s why they’re all mad.”

The increase in housing prices will also lead to an increase in property values, he noted, and therefore an increase in property taxes.

Another indication that it was out-of-staters driving the increase was that that the share of people working from home in Montana more than doubled between 2019-2021 and nearly tripled in Missoula, Helena and Billings. More than 20% of workers in Missoula, Bozeman and Kalispell worked from home in 2021.

“I don’t think we created a bunch of jobs that paid more than $200,000 in Montana,” Ward said. “What changed was people’s ability to live in Montana and access a job that pays more.”

Along with that, however, was the ability of Montanans who were previously underpaid to live here and access jobs that paid more money but were based out-of-state. That may have driven up wages for incumbent Montanans, Ward explained.

Earlier this year, the Daily Inter Lake newspaper in Kalispell reported that Barb Wagner, the chief economist for the Montana Department of Labor and Industry, found that Montana’s GDP grew at the 7th fastest rate in the nation in 2021.

“Montana has the 10th fastest (wage) growth in the states in the last year … and is up 21% in the last two years,” according Wagner said.

And it’s not so much that more people are moving in, but that fewer people are leaving. Before the pandemic, about 40,000 people would move to Montana every year and slightly less than 40,000 would move out. But during the pandemic, census data shows, about 45,000 people moved in a year and only about 30,000 people left.

Ward said that Montana saw a slow, steady rise in the number of high-income households every year over the last decade, but it jumped sharply once COVID hit.

“The pandemic just lurched us forward and did so at the same time as some other changes that put enormous pressure on housing prices, like historically low interest rates and rising household formation rates,” he said. “And if we we’re also attracting people with money from elsewhere, and people aren’t leaving, that’s how you get a 63% increase in the share of high-income households.”

Montana has the 8th worst electric vehicle infrastructure in the nation, reports Quote Wizard.

The rating was determined by an evaluation of electric vehicle adoption rates, EV incentives, charging stations and more to evaluate electric vehicle infrastructure in each state.

Montana findings included:

* 0.36% of vehicles are electric

* 2 alternative fuel stations per 10k vehicles

* 5 electric charging outlets per 10k vehicles 

The midwest-based Live Hydration Spa has been opened in Kalispell by Katie and John Pipek. Hydration Spa  gives people an option for hydration outside of a hospital setting. Kalispell is the only Montana location. The Spa can tailor bags for each individual patient depending on their goals, symptoms or possible disorders. Live Hydration Spa is located at 135 W Idaho St, Suite B in Kalispell.

The Missoula River Lodge property, prime habitat for local wildlife of all types, is tucked alongside an oxbow and just upstream of the confluence of Sixmile Creek and the Clark Fork. Wildlife biologists and bear managers claim the  vicinity of the Sixmile-Clark Fork confluence as one of the most vital wildlife zones in Missoula County. A recent study by the Missoula Bear Smart Working Group found that unsecured garbage is by far the leading cause of human-bear conflicts. Bear managers and biologists have described an epidemic of bears raiding garbage.  An enclosure built in June at the fishing lodge is a marquee example of the long-lasting structures of which the group hopes to build more.

Two Helena-based groups will receive a portion of the $1.4 million the Otto Bremer Trust is giving to Montana organizations. Shodair Children’s Hospital will get $250,000 to help build a new hospital to provide pediatric and adolescent mental and behavioral health services. Helena-based Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Montana will get $40,000 for general operations to create and support one-to-one youth mentoring relationships. Bremer is a private charitable trust based in St. Paul, Minnesota, created in 1944 by Otto Bremer.

A plan to develop a long-term facility, the Williston Energy Center, for youth in the City of Williston was presented at Sloulin Field recently by Power Play Project, Inc. The group sees this as being a draw for people in the Dakotas, Montana, and Canada. The plan highlights a remodel and addition to the hangar to build a long-term facility to include a multi-purpose.  Plans to allow for general ice activities are included as well as area hockey games. The group’s fundraising target is $25-30 million to cover all the amenities that are designed into the projected facility.

It was early September and Roxann McGuire was walking through the crop rows at Willow Mountain Winery. She strategically sampled grapes off the vines. She was looking for the combination of acid and sweetness that tells her the grape is ready to be harvested. McGuire has trained her palate to be able to taste these flavors. She uses that expertise in a location that isn’t known for its wine prowess — Montana. The grapes that Roxann and Brian McGuire grow here are cold-hardy interspecies hybrids. Nearly all well-known wines  like malbec, merlot, chardonnay, and others.  V. vinifera is a European grape species that consistently produces great wine but is not amenable to cold environments. But in the last half-century, researchers have been experimenting with breeding V. vinifera with grapes that are indigenous to the US. These interspecies hybrids are more cold-hardy  and are more amply disease-resistant. They taste differently from wines with which people are commonly familiar.

According to DNRC, 1,954 fires burned 122,503 acres this season in Montana. Forty-three percent of those fires were human-caused. 

Al’s Sporting Goods, a Utah-based retailer with three locations, has acquired all five Bob Ward & Sons locations in Montana. Bob Ward is a sporting goods retailer headquartered in Missoula with other stores in Bozeman, Butte, Helena and Hamilton. No changes in operation are currently planned.

Tonix Pharmaceuticals’ plan to build a new biomanufacturing center just north of the Ravalli County Fairgrounds in Hamilton is hoped to bring more high-tech bioscience jobs to the Bitterroot Valley. The building is expected to be complete in about three years. “This will be the third of our buildings — we have a facility near Frederick, Maryland, a process development facility south of Boston,” said Tonix CEO Dr. Seth Lederman. “This will be the later stage one where products are vetted. Here we can supply the world.”

North Dakota’s eight commercial service airports posted a total of 84,925 airline passenger boardings during the month of September, 2022. This is a 13% increase from the 74,943 boardings that the state experienced last year in September, 2021. It is also only 5% below September 2019’s pre-pandemic passenger counts of 89,925.

Michelle Becker and Taylor Dietz of Montana Steakburgers currently have one Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers’ location in Montana and are set to open four new Freddy’s across the state. The stores will open in Flathead, Missoula, Cascade, and Lewis & Clark counties. Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers is a fast-casual franchise concept with more than 440 locations across 36 states nationwide. Founded in Wichita, Kansas, in 2002, the brand offers a combination of cooked-to-order steakburgers, all-beef hot dogs, shoestring fries and other savory items.