Montana may be doing better than other states thanks to new leadership in Helena, but we are still getting hammered by the national economic headwinds hitting us in the face due to massive spending and regulations coming from Washington.

That was my big takeaway after hearing several eye-opening numbers from several different industry representatives. I took part in a roundtable discussion led by Montana's US Senator Steve Daines (R-MT) at the Evergreen Cafe located inside Ace Hardware near downtown Billings.

Trucking is getting hit. Agriculture is being hit. Real estate is being hit. Working class men and women are being hit by rising prices. (I had a great chat with Jason Small, Executive Secretary of the Montana AFL-CIO)

Now think about electricity. Electricity across the country is up nearly 30% since President Joe Biden and Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) took control of the White House and the Senate after 2020.

Let's put that in perspective. I'm a member of Yellowstone Valley Electric Cooperative (YVEC). That's who I get my electricity from. They've kept my rates low, with very minimal rate increases. They had a 4% rate increase last year, and that was the first one in 12 years. (While national electricity inflation is up 30%) But due to the cost of everything going up nationally, we could see more rate hikes down the road locally.

I caught up with Brandon Wittman, the CEO of YVEC, after the roundtable. 

Wittman: "We just came from a meeting where both of our power suppliers have told us they're going to raise their rates. And that's 55% of our total expense. So they told us to expect an increase in 2025, which means we'll have to react to that somehow. It'll probably be low single digits again. But that whole reliable/affordable thing- the affordable part is getting harder and harder for everyone."

Whether it is the cost of bucket trucks or power poles, it's all going up.

Wittman: "A standard pole used to be $700 two years ago, it's $1,100 today. A transformer used to be $1,500- it's almost $6,000 today. So those things have changed a lot. And that's just in a short period of time- two, three years."

Montana's US Senator Steve Daines (R-MT) called inflation a tax on all Montanans.

Senator Daines: "And it’s crippling Montana businesses and families. Today we heard from Montanans from all backgrounds, from a rancher to a hardware store owner to a single mom, and they were all clear. We must stop wasteful government spending and bring down prices for Montana families."

Roundtable participants included:

Brandon Wittman, CEO, Yellowstone County Valley Electric Cooperative

Turk Stovall, Owner, Stovall Ranches & Second Vice President, Montana Stockgrowers Association

Jodee Etchart, PA, Pulmonology, Billings Clinic & State Representative, HD48

Jason Small, Northern Cheyenne Tribal Member & Executive Secretary, Montana AFL-CIO

Scott Koch, General Manager, Whitewood Transport Inc.

Kimberly Welzenbach, CEO, Home Builders Association of Billings

Skip King, Owner, ACE Hardware

Amanda Flann, Owner, As Much As You Knead

Aaron Flint, Radio Host & Army Veteran

Henry Kriegel, Deputy State Director, Americans for Prosperity

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Gallery Credit: mwolfe

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