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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Fight Brewing In Helena Over Tax Credits For Religious School Donations

Montana Capitol.
William Marcus
Montana Public Radio
Montana Capitol

Montana’s Department of Revenue caused a furor when it said people who donate to private religious schools don’t qualify for new tax credits created by this year’s legislature. Representative Mary Anne Dunwell, a Helena Democrat, agrees:

“The Montana Constitution clearly says public appropriations cannot be used for faith based religious or sectarian institutions. It's right here in black and white.”

But 20 other state lawmakers disagree, and under state law that means the entire legislature must be polled on whether the rule meets with the legislature’s intent. Senator Llew Jones, the Conrad Republican who sponsored the measure, says the constitutionality of a law is for a judge to decide, not state bureaucrats.

“We cannot create a system where an agency is allowed to weigh in as if the court matter has been settled. That is just wrong.”

If a majority of lawmakers agree that they meant the law to cover religious schools, it won’t change the ruling from the Revenue Department… but the poll will serve as evidence if someone challenges the  law in court.

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