Both candidates for Montana’s sole congressional seat offered ideas on how to help small businesses during their visits to the Flathead Valley last weekend.
Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont., spent Sept. 10 visiting several small businesses in the valley, beginning with Timberline Tool north of Kalispell. The company produces unique tools and technology for maintenance and repair procedures with natural gas, water and firefighters.
The tools – many of which operate as clamps for polyethylene pipes – have evolved over time to handle needs within the utility and firefighting industries, company president Ken Green said.
Rehberg said he has visited small businesses throughout the state, and the prevailing feeling is one of uncertainty.
“They don’t know whether the economy is going to turn around as quickly as they need it to because they need help now,” Rehberg said.
As a solution, Rehberg discussed new legislation that he said would help free up capital for businesses and turn around the economy through several measures. One would be to suspend payroll taxes for one year, he said, or suspend half of these taxes for two years.
Another measure would be a 100-percent tax deduction for any investment by a small business in tools and technology for one year. Rehberg said he would also like the corporate tax lowered to 12.5 percent and to eliminate the capital gains tax.
If the bill is successful, Rehberg said it would help provide a fertile business atmosphere, allowing owners to use money they would normally spend on taxes to buy new equipment or hire more employees.
“My job is not to create winners or losers (in business),” Rehberg told Green. “My job is to create an environment for you to succeed.”
He later added: “I just don’t want to be your impediment. I want the government to get out of the way.”
Timberline Tool saw a drop-off in sales during the recession, Green noted, but has seen little business from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, otherwise known as the stimulus package.
Rehberg asked Green what he would do if he did not have payroll taxes and had technology and tool tax deductions. Green said his company could buy new machinery, which would mean he would need to triple his current nine-person workforce.
“Anything you could do just so we can free up our cash,” Green told Rehberg.
Rehberg’s Democratic challenger, Dennis McDonald, was also in the Flathead last weekend, and said in an interview that his travels throughout the state have shown the same anxiety and uncertainty in the business community.
McDonald said he would also support a holiday for payroll taxes, and a tax deduction for tools and technology.
“I have proposed a 15 percent bottom-line tax credit for the purchase of tools and equipment that a small business would utilize in their endeavors,” McDonald said.
To qualify for the tax credit, the tools and equipment would be required to have a majority of the components and assembly made in America, which McDonald said would stimulate the economy on two levels.
McDonald also said he supports reducing capital gains taxes to spur the private sector. However, none of these measures will work if the banks are not lending, he said.
“That’s not happening because of a general fear of where the economy is headed and the uncertainty of what to expect. We need to incentivize that,” McDonald added.
To do so, McDonald said small, midsize and regional banks could have a requirement to invest a portion of the capital they receive through the Federal Reserve in local communities: “The availability of capital is extremely important.”
Both candidates spent Sept. 11 in the valley; Rehberg attended the “Celebrate America” function put on by the Flathead County Republican Women at the fairgrounds in Kalispell and McDonald met with engineers in Kalispell and firefighters in Bigfork.
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