The Billings Outpost

Job growth top priority, Chamber survey finds

Montana Chamber of Commerce...

HELENA – Creating good jobs remains the top priority for Montanans, according to a new survey.

The Power Base (P-base) is an annual scientific survey of 600 Montana voters on a variety of business and political issues with a margin of error of 4.1 percent. The poll is commissioned by the Montana Chamber of Commerce and other business groups to determine what Montanans think about important economic issues facing our state. Here are some of the results:

Economic development

Without a doubt, creating good-paying jobs is the top priority for Montanans. A full 31 percent listed it as the top issue the Legislature should address this coming session, with lower taxes and a balanced budget a distant second at 16 percent.

For top pocketbook concern, healthcare costs continue to dominate with a plurality of 25 percent, and taxes coming in at 17 percent.

As in prior surveys, the P-base shows Montanans want to see more business growth, especially in high wage businesses like the natural resource industries.

For example, 83 percent of Montana voters want the state to encourage more timber, 77 percent want more oil and gas development, 71 percent want more coal development, and 71 percent want more mining.

In fact, the support comes from majorities of Republicans, Democrats and independents polled on every industry category.

Montanans are still pessimistic about the national economy, but there are signs of improved attitudes. Half of voters believe the U.S. economy is on the wrong track (down from 66 percent last year) as opposed to 34 percent who think we are on the right track. A majority of voters believe the state’s

economy is better off with 52 percent saying we’re on the right track vs. 23 percent saying wrong track.

 State issues

Respondents in the poll stated they hope the Legislature rejects bills that force employers to have guns on company property or to allow concealed weapons in bars and banks. Both ideas were presented in bills last session and are expected to be introduced again.

Montanans are split on whether school funding levels are adequate with 43 percent saying they are adequate, 43 percent inadequate. A plurality of respondents favored a complete repeal of the business equipment tax – 38 percent support repeal while 25 percent oppose.

Federal issues

A majority of voters would like Congress to rein in or stop the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from implementing new regulations that affect new coal mines with 52 percent opposed to additional regulations and 36 percent supportive.

In addition, 81 percent of voters support free trade agreements with other countries that allow Montana commodities and products to get exported.

To see the results of the full poll, go to www.montanachamber.com/2012P-Base.pdf.

Copyright 2012 Wild Raspberry Inc.

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