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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Saying 'Taxation Is Theft,' Legislator Pushes Referendum For Tax Cuts

Rep. Nicholas Schwaderer (R) HD 14
Montana Legislature

State lawmakers are considering the question of who should make tax policy decisions. Voters or the Montana Legislature?

Members of the House Taxation committee heard two bills that would amend the Montana Constitution to set tax policy.

House Bill 266 wants to ask voters to cut each income tax bracket by 10 percent.

The sponsor is Representative Nicholas Schwaderer. The Republican from Superior says his intent is to cut taxes.

"I’m here to get things done. Taxation of income is theft."

Schwaderer says his past efforts have failed and this is his vehicle to cut the income tax.

The other bill seeks to ask voters to amend the Constitution to put in language that would prevent Montana from imposing a personal or corporate income tax if there’s a general statewide sales tax.

The sponsor of House Bill 276 is Republican Representative Greg Hertz of Polson.

"This bill is solely brought to protect the citizens of Montana from laying another statewide level of taxation on them," Hertz said.

Discussion on both bills quickly turned from the specifics to a more philosophical debate on who’s responsible for setting tax policy, the Legislature or the people.

Former veteran legislator Bob Story of Park City is now with the Montana Taxpayers Association. He says this group supports tax cuts, but Story says doing that shouldn’t be put into the state Constitution.

"Voters will pretty much always vote themselves a tax cut. And so if that becomes the process then it’s the last person standing that will end up with the tax bill because you’re still going to have services and taxes."

Story says this will shackle future Legislatures because they will be faced with dwindling revenues.

Eric Feaver with MEA-MFT came at the argument differently.

"You are the elected Representatives of the people," Feaver said. "The Constitution has empowered you to tax and spend. Why legislators would give away that power or offer it to the people then why be a Legislature? Why bother to come to town?"

The House Taxation Committee did not take immediate action on either bill.

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