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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

GOP Income Tax Cut Moves Ahead

Montana Legislature

The Republican majority at the Legislature is marching ahead with an income tax cut bill despite warnings from the Bullock administration the move is premature.

House Bill 166 was amended in the Senate. It now would lower all of the income tax brackets by two-tenths of a percentage point. The bill was re-referred to the Senate Finance and Claims Committee to consider the fiscal implications.

The sponsor, Representative Keith Regier says, while that’s an increase from his original one-tenth of a percentage point he supports the move.

"As a matter of fact that’s the intent of the bill is to get money, leave it in the taxpayers pocket and stimulate the economy that way," Regier said. 

Opponents, however, question why lawmakers are in such a hurry to act on this bill as it’s not subject to this week’s transmittal deadline that affects general bills.

State Revenue Director Mike Kadas says taking action now on a tax cut is premature.

"You’re easily $1 billion away from having a balance here. And that $1 is roughly one-quarter to one-fifth of the total budget."

Kadas says there are still too many revenue and spending decisions still in play.

"I think you afford the governor very few opportunities. I think you afford any governor very few opportunities with this. Perhaps that is the intent but I think the governor will see through that and inviting a veto on this type of legislation."

But Republican Senator Rick Ripley disagrees legislative action on this bill is premature. He says this is about setting priorities.

"If we truly want the legislature to give some money back to the taxpayers then I think this is a method to do that and if it is a priority then they can fit it in the budget. If we have to cut somewhere else then we’ll cut back somewhere else."

And Senate President Pro Tem Eric Moore takes issue with Kadas that lawmakers and the administration are one billion dollars apart when tax cuts and spending proposals before lawmakers are considered at this point. He calls that’s misleading.

"This is a clearinghouse of ideas and there are many ideas under consideration working their way through the process and some will make it most will not. We will come out of here with a balanced budget."

The Senate Finance and Claims Committee passed House Bill 166 on a party-line 12-to 7 vote.

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