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Gianforte touts tax bill in visit to Polson

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POLSON — Montana’s congressman came to town last week to meet locals and discuss goings-on in the nation’s capital during the past seven months since he was sworn in. 

Rep. Greg Gianforte spoke at Lake City Bakery & Eatery for an hour Wednesday morning, Jan. 24, and touted the income tax cut bill that Congress recently passed that was signed into law by the president. 

When asked after the meeting what the biggest surprises have been for him, the Bozeman businessman said he’s been encouraged by the discussions and quality of the people he’s worked with. 

“Most people are there for the right reasons,” he said. 

Gianforte, who defeated Democrat Rob Quist in a special election last year to finish the term of former Rep. Ryan Zinke, said he’s been trying to “build bridges” and attends a prayer breakfast every Thursday morning with a group that consists of half Democrats and half Republicans. The animosity that’s portrayed in the media is not happening on a personal level, he said. 

On the negative side, Gianforte said he was surprised at how out of touch the national media is, adding that they do not accurately report what goes on. 

He answered a question about a Foreign Intelligence Service Act (FISA) memo, a four-page memorandum prepared by House Intelligence Committee Chair Rep. Devin Nunes, R-California, that alleges the Obama administration abused the FISA Act in targeting the Trump campaign in 2016. 

Gianforte said he’s read the memo while in a secure facility in D.C. “I believe we should release it. There’s a process that’s underway,” he said, noting it takes 2-3 weeks. 

In regard to the president, Gianforte said he’s “not always happy with every Tweet that comes out, but Trump hires well.” He said Trump has done exactly what he said he was going to do. 

“The most important thing we’ve done and that Trump has done is pass this tax bill,” he said, encouraging people to “check your check. It’s gonna get bigger.” 

The average Montana family is going to pay $1,000 less in taxes, he said, and cited the example of a Montana business owner who was so excited about the tax bill that he gave his employees a raise. 

“Our economy has been anemic for 10 years,” Gianforte said, adding that if the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) goes up a half-percent, it will pay for the tax cuts. 

Help for Lake County?

In response to questions from Lake County Attorney Steve Eschenbacher and Commissioner Bill Barron about getting help to fund services when tribal-owned land is being put into trust and removed from the tax rolls, Gianforte said the federal government might be able to fund a specific project with a specific program. 

“Let’s pick a project and get the people around the table and talk about it,” he said, referring to representatives of Lake County and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes. “We need a program the project fits under,” he said. 

He said he’s working on Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) legislation that reimburses localities for the loss of revenue on land owned by the federal government.

In regard to cutting spending, Gianforte said legislators shouldn’t get paid when the budget isn’t balanced. He said he introduced a bill to this effect and made his opinion known on the floor of the House and was booed by Democrats and Republicans. 

He co-sponsored the Resilient Federal Forests Act, which passed the House 232-188 on Nov. 11, 2017. The bill — HR2936 — would allow the Forest Service to thin trees in forests up to 30,000 acres using a shorter environmental review process under the National Environmental Policy Act. The Forest Service could then more quickly pursue “forest management projects” in which dead or dying timber is removed and sold to mills, and then use the proceeds to care for the forests and make them more resilient to wildfires. Ten Democrats voted for the bill, and nine Republicans voted against it. 

The House has passed numerous other bills too, Gianforte said, adding that nearly 400 of them are bogged down in the Senate.

In spite of this, he said he’s enjoying his job. “I know I’m making a difference back there,” he said. 

Gianforte’s seat is up for election again in November and has drawn the interest of five Democrats who are seeking their party’s nomination in a June 5 primary. (State Rep. Tom Woods, D-Bozeman, dropped out earlier this month.)

“Talk to people about the tax bill,” he said. “November is going to be a referendum on Trump.” 

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