If anybody still has doubts that the Montana Chamber of Commerce is merely a Republican political group that cross-dresses as a group that supposedly advocates for main street businesses, consider what happened in the waning days of the session.
Three weeks ago, a majority-Republican committee snuck into a budget bill a tax hike on every small business, a measure that would have increased these businesses’ work comp premiums 2.75 percent.
Worse, this measure, done in the dark of night and with no discussion on the floor of either house, came on the heels of the Governor signing the largest work comp reform in Montana history, a landmark reform that is expected to lower work comp rates substantially, and soon.
The Chamber made no opposition to the 2.75 percent premium tax. Not when it was inserted. Not when it was voted up by the Republican conference committee. Not when it passed the Republican dominated House and Senate. Not even when it hit the Governors desk. Nor did they even express an opinion when the Governor called a press conference to explain to citizens that he would veto this Republican tax hike and thus save every small business owner in Montana some hard-earned dough.
And here is a screenshot of the Montana Chamber’s website. They present a long list of “Montana Business and Chamber Headlines” from state newspapers. Oddly, amid a list that spans the last six months, there is not a single link to any story about the work comp premium tax veto; nor about the governor’s historic bi-partisan work comp reform; nor about the governor signing the bill to decrease the business equipment tax; nor about the governors proposal at the outset of the session, to completely eliminate the business equipment tax.
In fact the Chamber has a very obvious modus operandi. When Republicans do something that can be spun as pro-business, the Chamber is all over it, trumpeting it to their membership in e-mails, press releases, newsletters, op-eds, etc. Same when Democrats do something interpreted by the Chamber as bad for business.
But when Republicans do something bad for business, or when Democrats do something good for business, not a peep. Instead, as with the premium tax, Webb Brown and his conservative brownshirts act like cats who swallowed a canary. Just sit tight and hope no Montana business owner contacts the Chamber (supposedly a lobbying group that represents business owners) to inquiry as to why the Chamber didn’t try to stop Republican legislators when they voted for a tax on work comp premiums.
This is nothing new of course. When a few years ago, the national chamber of commerce rated Montana as the best state in America to start a business, the Montana chamber made every effort not to publicize this fact. There wasn’t a word of it spoken by anyone who works for the chamber. In essence, the chamber decided to take a pass one of the biggest opportunities for boosterism that has ever availed our state.
So remember, as currently operated, the Montana Chamber is not an ally of Montana small business. It is nothing more than a Republican partisan machine, for whom party politics is the first order of business.