Montana Voices: Eliminating private activity bonds will hurt Montana communities

Congress has the unenviable job of deciding who wins big and who will be hurt by tax reform. One decision that should be easy for lawmakers is to retain the tax tool that has resulted in the development of more than 7,000 affordable homes, access to homeownership for 42,000 Montana families, and $2.87 billion in financing of critical projects for rural Montana hospitals.

Private Activity Bonds are responsible for the public-private partnerships that have allowed us to invest in Montana communities over the last 40 years. Congress is considering eliminating Private Activity Bonds, a move that would deal a devastating blow to the health of our state and have immediate and long-term impacts on our residents.

Without this financing tool, it would have been more difficult for the Pondera Medical Center in Conrad to purchase a CT machine and make necessary renovations to its radiology department; for Northeast Montana Health Services in Wolf Point to construct an emergency room and obstetrics area to better meet the needs of growing families; and for Deer Lodge Medical Center to purchase the only 3D mammography machine available within a 45-mile radius of the area. Private Activity Bonds help keep services local, affordable and of the highest quality so that rural and frontier Montanans don’t have to drive an hour or more to find the best care to fit their needs.

Our rural hospitals should be focused on caring for the folks in our vibrant communities, and creating good-paying jobs that are often the growth engine for Montana’s small towns. Preserving Private Activity Bonds will let rural health care providers, including hospitals and nursing homes, continue to invest in the health of our communities through the purchase of new technologies and other improvements that increase access to quality, safe and effective care.

Without Private Activity Bonds, Montana wouldn’t have celebrated the grand opening of 136 affordable homes at Larkspur Commons in Bozeman, or 124 affordable apartments at Rockcress in Great Falls. We wouldn’t be breaking ground on 32 new affordable homes at Copper Ridge in Butte, or 96 affordable homes at Heights Senior in Billings.  These multimillion-dollar affordable housing developments require low-cost financing tools to foster public-private partnerships among developers, banks, the state, and local communities.

As our lawmakers in Washington, D.C., work through the details of tax reform, we want to be sure Sen. Jon Tester, Sen. Steve Daines, and Rep. Greg Gianforte know exactly what’s at stake for Montana’s charming and vibrant communities. We all want to work together to build stronger communities. Don’t take away our ability to make smart investments for Montana’s future.

Montana Board of Housing; Montana Facility Finance Authority; Montana Hospital Association; Alex Burkhalter, President/Developer, Housing Solutions LLC; Don Mann, President/Owner, Mann Mortgage; Donald J. Sterhan, President/CEO, Mountain Plains Equity Group; Robert Nystuen, Glacier Bank Market President.