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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Bill Proposes Increase In Resort Taxes To Help Fund Affordable Housing

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Bill Proposes Increase In Resort Taxes To Help Fund Affordable Housing

Resort taxes in Montana could go up a bit under a new bill at the state legislature. Senate Bill 343 had its first hearing today. The bill’s sponsor argued resort towns need it to help fund more affordable housing for locals.

Dillon Republican Jeffrey Welborn’s bill would give resort communities the option of increasing the tax on luxury items and non-essential goods.

State resort taxes are currently capped at 3 percent, but Paulina Hazen who lives in Big Sky says that isn’t enough to support the people who live in Montana’s tourism communities year around:

"The real-estate and rental market have become volatile to anyone who is in any socioeconomic bracket lower than what would be deemed upper class; your civil servants, your middle management, your year-round, keep the cogs and the clocks turning employees are sacrificing their quality of life to keep a roof over the heads, food on their table and their lights on," Hazen says. "We are being forced out of our homes on a very regular basis for vacation property rentals."

Senator Welborn, pushed back on claims that this was a sales tax, and said local communities should be able to vote on a way to fund affordable housing and other community needs like sewer systems and roads.

"[SB] 343 is not a tax increase, it’s about giving these communities the ability to make a local decision, and their own right vote, and these communities would be effectively owning the decision for their local challenges," Welborn said.

But, Jerry Scott, the CEO of a real estate state development company in Big Sky says the bill is vague, and doesn’t outline what exactly an increase to the resort tax could fund or what affordable housing is. He also said the current resort tax money revenues continue to increase and could be used to fund affordable housing efforts.

"The bottom line is I don’t think the resort tax needs any more money to do its job effectively."

Lawmakers also questioned whether some communities could fund housing efforts with the current level of taxes.

Several community leaders will provide the Senate Taxation Committee a list of what their tourism tax dollars went to fund or the past two decades.

The taxation committee did not immediately vote on the bill.

Corin Cates-Carney manages MTPR’s daily and long-term news projects. After spending more than five years living and reporting across Western and Central Montana, he became news director in early 2020.
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