Montana Lawmakers Work On Compromise Tax Bills

Apr 18, 2017

A big part of this year’s legislative session has been Montana’s Republican-controlled Legislature fighting with Democratic Governor Steve Bullock over tax proposals.

Republicans have passed some of their priority bills, which at times have died with Bullock’s veto. And the governor’s proposals often died early in Republican-led committees. On Tuesday, Republican leadership announced a compromise with just two weeks left in the legislative session.

"We have a grouping of several bills that some of us on this side of the aisle like, and some of us on this side of the aisle like less, and vice versa," said Republican Senate Majority leader Fred Thomas speaking on the Senate Floor Tuesday.

Senate Majority Leader Fred Thomas (R) SD44.
Credit Mike Albans / Montana Public Radio

"We're trying to tie a few bills together to, in essence, make as best a deal, if you want to use that term, best arrangement for the legislation for the state of Montana."

Thomas says late last week he met with the governor and agreed on moving forward with about a dozen tax policy bills.

Two Republican proposed bills on income and property taxes, which Democrats have said they don’t like, will be used as vehicles to move other bipartisan goals forward. Those bills would largely be gutted, being used instead to carry forward the legislative compromise Thomas says is being negotiated with Democratic leaders, including Governor Bullock.

Senator Thomas declined to discuss specific details of the upcoming bill package.

Democratic Minority Leader Jon Sesso says he learned of the governor’s talks with Republican leaders over the weekend, and still isn’t clear on some of the details. But he says there are a few bills, including an income tax credit proposal, that need some cooperation if they’re going to become law.

"To a certain extent you have to give to get," Sesso says.

In the mix, Democrats appear to be getting tax credits for employers who hire new apprentices, and tax breaks for expanding industries.

Both of the bills to move the compromise forward passed initial votes on the Senate floor Tuesday afternoon. One more vote will send them to the House, where leaders say they’ll be channeled into a conference committee to hammer out compromise details.