Montana roads are getting safer, according to Quote Wizard. Their analysts found that traffic fatalities have decreased by 14 percent in Montana over the past year – that’s the 3rd biggest decrease nationwide.

Key findings for Montana:

* 206 people were killed on roadways in 2022

* Smaller city roads had an 8% decrease in traffic fatalities nationwide

* Nationally, Connecticut and New Hampshire had the largest increases in traffic fatalities while Idaho and Rhode Island had the biggest decreases

By Chris Woodward, The Center Square

Montana sold 52 million board feet of timber from State Trust Land in fiscal year 2023, state agencies announced this week.

Those sales resulted in $8 million in revenue, according to the governor’s office and the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation. In Montana, revenue from agriculture, grazing and recreation on State Trust Land is allocated to public schools and other public education.

Gov. Greg Gianforte said in a statement that state goals for timber production means “reduced wildfire risk, improved forest health, and greater predictability and certainty for the wood products industry” in Montana.

?DNRC?s commitment to responsible forest management has led to exceptional outcomes,?ÿForest Management Bureau Chief Dan Rogersÿsaid. ?Montana?s State Trust Land serves as a vital source for regional forest products, and we’re proud to provide a steady supply of timber while supporting local economies.?

Montana reported 51 million board feet of timber in fiscal year 2022, 64.1 million in 2021, and 45.5 million in 2020.ÿ

“In Montana, schools and other public institutions are funded in part by revenue generated from certain state-owned lands ? those state lands are Trust Land,” the state’s website says. “Montana state trust lands are working lands. These lands are held in trust for the perpetual yield of revenues to support Montana?s public education institutions.”

Jaxon Banfield  recently joined Stockman Bank as a Real Estate Lender at the Billings Grand Avenue location. He will develop and originate real estate loans while assisting clients in home purchase financing, consolidating debt, lowering monthly payments, construction financing or utilizing their home as an investment tool.

Banfield brings over four years of banking experience to the position, which includes account openings, consumer lending, loan management and business development. His experience will be an asset to Stockman Bank in deepening client relationships and expanding our real estate loan portfolio.

Banfield earned his Bachelor of Science Degree in Mathematics from Montana State University Bozeman in 2018 and is a certified Notary in the state of Montana. He will be active in the community by participating in Stockman Bank related events.

Banfield is located at the 1405 Grand Avenue Stockman Bank.

By Cristina Enache, The Tax Foundation

In recent years, European countries have undertaken a series of tax reforms designed to maintain tax revenue levels while protecting households and businesses from high inflation.

These policies include reducing value-added taxes (VAT) and excise duties, indexing the income tax to inflation, and cutting tax rates for low-income families. Some countries introduced temporary windfall profits taxes while others reduced environmental taxes.

Nevertheless, according to an Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) report, many countries experienced an increase in tax revenues after the pandemic while growth outpaced the rate of GDP expansion.

If this trend is to continue through 2022 and 2023, it would suggest that governments used this inflationary scenario to raise more revenue, rather than protecting citizens from inflation.

The largest increases in tax-to-GDP ratio were observed in Norway, Lithuania, Spain, and Germany. The main drivers behind the revenue increases were corporate taxes and VATs. On the other hand, eight European countries registered a decline in their tax-to-GDP ratio with Hungary registering the largest fall at 2.2 percentage points.

A dollar goes further in Montana than in many areas of the country. In a non-metropolitan area like Montana a $100 can buy $109.61 worth of goods or $108.11 in Billings, compared to $87.86 in Los Angeles.

The Bureau of Economic Analysis has released data detailing the disparities in spending power across areas of each state in 2021. It compares how much $100 buys across the country. $100 tends to buy the least in large cities in the Northeast, California, and the Pacific Northwest, and more in rural areas in the Southeast and Midwest.

Prices can vary significantly within states too. In most states a dollar goes further in rural areas than in their metropolitan areas.  In Missoula $100 buys $105.57 of goods and in Great Falls, $114.71. San Francisco is one of the lowest areas at $83.45. It buys the most in rural Arizona at $123.60.

The differences can be large and they have significant implications for the relative impact of economic and tax policies across the United States, state the Tax Foundation.  “The differences can be large and they have significant implications for the relative impact of economic and tax policies across the United States.”

Many policies, such as minimum wage levels, tax brackets, and means-tested public benefit income thresholds, are denominated in nominal dollars, even though a dollar in one region may go much further than a dollar in another. Lawmakers should keep that reality in mind as they make changes to tax and economic policies, advises the Tax Foundation.

Montana might note that in most of our neighboring states, consumers get more bang for the buck, even when comparing metropolitan areas. North Dakota $111.85; South Dakota $114.46; Wyoming $109.75; Idaho $112.71; Bismarck $106.11; Fargo $108.02; Cheyenne $107.70; Casper $109.48; Boise $106.55; Coeur d’Alene $106.65.

The Gallatin Association of REALTORS (GAR) is released statements that the organization sent to the City of Bozeman Commissioners regarding the following two ordinances coming before them. 

 Ordinance 2149 – Short Term Rentals

 The Gallatin Association of Realtors opposes the proposed ordinance 2149 which bans Type III Short Term Rentals and increases the Type II residency requirement to 70 percent. These changes to the Short Term Rental policy are a clear violation of private property rights and are an infringement on homeownership.

 We strongly encourage enforcement of ordinance 2131 and the existing standards for Short Term Rentals. We request the Commission does not consider ANY new Short Term Rental ordinances for six months to one year in order to evaluate the full effects of 2131 on the classification types and total number of STRs.

Ordinance 2147 – Urban Camping

 Amended ordinance 2147, although a parking ordinance, is truly being established for urban camping. It puts a limit of 30 days in the same location along with not being within an area considered residential, not within 100 feet of a commercial business, not to be adjacent to or on a park, and not covering a public right of way such as a sidewalk. The civil punishment fine is $25 and only after three (3) written and documented violations.

 The Gallatin Association of Realtors does not support this ordinance, due to a lack of meaningful effect on the numerous public safety issues caused by urban camping. This new ordinance does not do enough to remedy the illegal activities at these sites or to discourage urban camping. The ordinance also lacks clarity in defined boundaries for residential and/or commercial areas. We highly encourage enforcement of current parking policies noted in the City of Bozeman Parking Municipal Code and more stringent restrictions to discourage urban camping.

By Lauren Jessop, The Center Square

The federal government’s electrified vision for the nation’s transportation sector needs a modernized power grid to support it – and experts say they need it now.

More concerning still, they say, upgrades aren’t on track to meet the Biden administration’s 2035 target for an electric vehicle takeover.

That’s because shoring up grid capacity, moderating the variability of renewable energy, and appeasing duplicative government regulations complicate the process, creating doubts about whether these goals are attainable at the scope and pace being set. 

Robert Charette – a longtime systems engineer, contributing editor for IEEE Spectrum, and author of “The EV Transition Explained” – said simultaneously transforming the transportation and energy sectors “will involve a huge number of known and unknown variables, which will subtly interact in complex, unpredictable ways … and each proposed solution will probably create new difficulties.”

Lehigh Valley engineer James M. Daley, PE, a member of the IEEE Standards Association – with decades-long experience developing criteria addressing the interconnection of new energy technologies to the electric grid – told The Center Square that “variable renewable energy already has an impact on the resiliency of the national grid.”

“The introduction of EVs will only serve to exacerbate the issue,” he said.

It’s important, he said, to differentiate between renewable energy, or RE, and variable renewable energy, or VRE. For example, geothermal, nuclear, and hydroelectric are considered RE, whereas wind and solar are VRE. 

The distinction between the two is made because wind and solar power are contingent on weather and atmospheric conditions, while other sources are constant sources of energy.

A dramatic demonstration of that system vulnerability, Daley said, occurred in Texas in 2021, when a winter storm severely impacted their wind turbines. The blades iced up, ceased to produce energy, and grid operators brought on their natural gas-fired turbine generators. With high demand for residential and commercial heating, the remaining supply was insufficient to make up for the loss of wind power – resulting in outages affecting millions of customers for days. 

The Texas Department of State Health Services later confirmed 246 people died during the deep freeze, close to two-thirds of which succumbed to hypothermia.

Daley analyzed solar insolation data from 14 national weather stations from Maine to Florida, finding southern states have a 25% difference – a significant advantage – in harvesting solar energy. This should be kept in focus when deciding what form of renewable energy is to be harvested, he said.

Daley is one of an increasing number of people adding solar panels to their homes. He harvested almost 47% more energy than he used, but his utility company still had to provide 63.3% of his electricity. 

“You harvest energy during the day when the sun is out, but you use energy 24 hours a day – so on rainy days and in the evening, your energy comes from the utility company,” he said.

Typically, energy harvested from renewable sources is used immediately, and not stored, so any excess is sent to the grid where it can be distributed to others. The utility company applies credits to your bill for that energy.

Swiftwater Solar, an 80MW facility awaiting approval in Monroe County, will encompass 476 acres and is estimated to provide power to approximately 14,000 homes. Daley says that’s a lot of virgin forest to lose. 

There are debates over whether solar panels reduce carbon dioxide emissions more per acre than trees, and on other tradeoffs such as area aesthetics and loss of wildlife habitat. Offshore wind projects have also created controversy over their potential effects on marine life. 

Daley said currently, the largest source of non-polluting energy is nuclear power. 

Energy generation technologies are rated for their capacity – a measure of reliability, or how often a plant is running at maximum power. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, in 2021, nuclear plants were the highest rated at more than 92.7%. 

Geothermal received a 71% rating; natural gas 54%; coal 49.3%; hydropower 37.1%; wind 34.6%; and solar 24.6%.

Creating energy is one issue, but the bigger problem is transferring it to the grid because transmission infrastructure needs a massive upgrade. 

The DOE says that to meet growing clean electricity demands, transmission systems need a 60% expansion by 2030, and possibly tripled by 2050. 

The department admits “building transmission is difficult, time-consuming, and hard to get over the finish line.” As a result, the large amount of potential clean power capacity is gridlocked due to wait times and costs of connecting to the transmission grid. 

Alleviating the issue, they say, will require a collaborative, holistic approach, engaging other federal agencies, state and local governments, American Indian and Alaska Native tribal nations, industry, unions, local communities, environmental justice organizations, and other stakeholders. It will also require changes to transmission planning and generator interconnection processes.

Charette says any hope of having a carbon-free electricity grid by 2035 involves adding tens of thousands of miles of new transmission lines to the more than 600,000 circuit miles of existing alternating current (AC) transmission lines. 

He cites a report showing that from 2010 to 2020, only 18,000 miles of new transmission lines were added to the grid, with only 386 added in 2021. Currently, there are only 5,000 miles on track for delivery between now and 2025. 

Further, Charette adds, the local electricity distribution network needs to be upgraded as well, with new substations being built and tens of thousands of line transformers in need of replacement.

The proximate causes for the slow progress, he says, are numerous competing federal and state regulations that must be followed, as well as possible landowner objections. As a result, new projects can take a decade or more to complete, and often double or triple in cost – if they get built at all. 

Daley said these challenges mean a 100% renewable energy future “will never happen.”

The City of Billings, in partnership with the Tourism Business Improvement District (TBID), the Billings Chamber of Commerce, and Big Sky Economic Development has been awarded a $1,000,000 Small Community Air Service Development Program (SCASD) grant by the United States Department of Transportation to recruit, initiate, and support new air service between Billings and one of two California hubs—San Francisco or Los Angeles.

“This SCASD grant is a very effective tool in our community’s ongoing air service development effort. We were successful in bringing American Airlines service to Billings with the last SCASD grant and I am looking forward to the new air service this grant will generate,” shared Jeff Roach, Director of Aviation and Transit for the City of Billings.

According to Billings Chamber of Commerce President/CEO John Brewer, Southern California is one of the top destinations for Billings residents that is currently without direct service. “Direct service to the Los Angeles or San Francisco area would grow our visitor economy and provide residents with a better quality of life via better travel options for leisure, visiting family, and work,” he added.

This is the second time the City of Billings has been awarded the prestigious SCASD grant, and an exciting development in the community-wide effort to increase Air Service frequency and availability from the Billings airport.

“Increasing Air Service is a strategic priority for the businesses and communities we serve. We’re pleased to see that our government partners recognize our efforts and continue to support us as we expand our air service partnerships,” shared Ashley Kavanagh, Senior Director of Recruitment and Community Development at Big Sky Economic Development.

The City of Billings, the Tourism Business Improvement District, Billings Chamber of Commerce, and Big Sky Economic Development continue to partner with key stakeholders to increase air service in the Billings market and have a goal of providing a local match in funding to maximize the federal grant.


Iseman Homes Of Montana Inc/ Cl Baisch LLC, 750 Parkway Ln, Com New Warehouse/Storage, $74,641

Hs Management LLC, 575 Lincoln Ln, Com New Warehouse/ Storage, $300,000

Hs Management LLC/ Building 4 575 Lincoln Ln, Com New Warehouse/Storage, $250,000

Liberty Mutual/ Beartooth Holding & Construction, 1678 Shiloh Rd, Com Remodel, $110,000

Melissa Martin ,1625 Annafeld Pkwy E, Com Remodel, $35,000

American Tower/ Ethos Distributed Solutions Inc, 526 Bernard St, Com Remodel, $15,000

Builders Exchange Inc, 2050 Broadwater Ave Billings, $250,000

Moe Wazwaz, 1219 N 27th St, Com Remodel, $200,000

American Tower, 526 Bernard St, Com Remodel, $150,000

City Of Billings The/ A & S Remodeling And Construction, 500 Hallowell Ln, Com Remodel, $500

City Of Billings – Parks Dept/ Steves Install LLC, 2005 6th Ave N, Demolition Permit Commercial, $25,000

C-Stores Properties LLC, 1125 S 27th St, Roofing $5,000 

KCWD Limited Partnership, 1313 1st Ave N, Roofing, $15,000  

Marvin Development of Montana, 1026 Grand Ave, Roofing, $82,500

Nelson, Bert A, 2223 1st Ave N, Remodel, $10,000

Alternatives Inc, 3109 1st Ave N, Remodel, $170,000

Candy Guys LLC, 1020 Shiloh Crossing Blvd, Remodel, $150,000

Mike Hefner, 1780 Shiloh Rd, Remodel, $36,000

Charter Communications Inc, 1860 Monad Rd, Remodel, $15,000

Stockton Jr, Daniel E, 420 N 16th St, Remodel, $2,500

Defender Investments LLC, 1313 Central Ave, Remodel,  $2,800


Weidinger, Anna/ Workmule Construction, 212 Terry Ave, Res Addition Single/Duplex/Garage, $14,800

Wutzke, James M & Cathy C, 702 N 17th St, Res Addition Single/ Duplex/Garage, $20,380

Shepovalof, Darrell D & Consta/ Reliable Renovations, 762 Torch Dr, Res Addition Single/ Duplex/Garage, $10,000

Colton, Shane D & Gina M/ Dan Wegner Construction, 206 Clark Ave,  Res Addition Single/ Duplex/ Garage, $50,000

Johns, Christopher M, 1107 23rd St W, Res Addition Single/Duplex/Garage, $13,824

Richard Brant/ ADU, 605 Alderson Ave, Res New Accessory Structure, $69,115

Billings Best Builders/ Billings Best Builders LLC, 5355 N Iron Mountain Rd, Res New Single Family, $275,000

Mike Christensen Enterprises/ Michael Christensen Homes, 4935 Silver Creek Trl, Res New Single Family, $450,000

Billings Best Builders/ Billings Best Builders LLC, 5349 N Iron Mountain Rd, Res New Single Family, $275,000

Brockel, Jason D/ Image Builders, 3613 Timberline Dr, Res New Single Family, $686,327

Richard Brant, 605 Alderson Ave, Res New Two Family $372,880

Infinity Home LLC/ Infinity Home LLC, 7077 Copper Bend Blvd, Res New Single Family, $234,884

Buchanan, Gary & Norma/ Langlas & Assoc., Inc., 2108 Pryor Ln, Res New Single Family, $850,000

Infinity Home LLC/ Infinity Home LLC, 7083 Copper Bend Blvd, Res New Single Family, $214,500

Wagenhals Enterprise Inc/Wagenhals Enterprises Inc, 5366 Amherst Dr, Res New Single Family, $375,000

Edward Jones Financial Advisor Mike Vondra of Billings has been named to the 2023  Forbes Top Next-Gen Wealth Advisors Best-in-State ranking by Forbes/ SHOOK Research. The list is comprised of more than 1,460 financial advisors nationwide, all under age 40.

“This is an incredible honor, one I could never have achieved without the tremendous support from my branch team. And I am forever indebted to my clients for the trust they have put in me and the relationships we’ve built as we work toward the financial goals that help give them the freedom to live life on their terms,” Vondra said. “This work inspires me because I know that, for years to come, I can make a meaningful difference in the lives of my clients and colleagues, and in my community.”