- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 20, 2016

HELENA, Mont. (AP) - Gov. Steve Bullock is proposing a tax-relief program for businesses that includes waivers and credits that he will present to the 2017 Montana Legislature if he is re-elected.

The tax plan is meant to encourage companies to grow and to create higher-wage jobs in Montana, an issue that his Republican opponent, Greg Gianforte, has hammered on in his campaign to unseat the Democratic incumbent.

Bullock was in Billings to promote the plan Wednesday, after stopping at businesses in Great Falls and Bozeman on Tuesday.

The plan will “make it easier for businesses all across the state to grow and expand and create good-paying jobs, putting more hard-working Montanans to work and further strengthen an already strong economy,” Bullock said.

Bullock’s plan includes waiving 75 percent of the state business equipment tax for a new business or a business expansion for the first five years. Republicans have long targeted cutting or eliminating the tax on equipment purchased by businesses, and in 2013, Bullock signed a bill that reduced the tax rate and raised the minimum purchase amount that triggers the tax from $20,000 to $100,000.

Bullock also said his plan would give businesses a $1,000 tax credit for each employee offered on-the-job training and a $2,000 credit for every veteran hired.

Gianforte said in response to Bullock’s announcement that Bullock had four years to deliver tax relief and failed to do so. Gianforte proposed his own tax plan in April that calls for eliminating the business equipment tax and setting the maximum income tax rate at 6 percent.

“This is a time for real leaders, not half measures,” Gianforte said in a statement. “If the governor had actually done something these last 4 years, we probably wouldn’t be in this position.”

Gianforte noted that Bullock vetoed multiple Republican tax measures in the last legislative session.

The state Department of Revenue estimated that eliminating the business equipment tax would cost the state $81 million in lost revenue a year and capping the income tax rate at 6 percent would cost another $125 million annually.

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