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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Local Option Tax Bills Continue To Die In Committee

HELENA -- The third bill in the Montana Legislature that would provide a local option sales tax was tabled with a 12-6 vote in the House Taxation Committee Thursday.

House Bill 740 would have allowed local governments to adopt a voter-approved sales tax of up to 4 percent. No more than 40 percent of the tax revenue would go to property tax relief.

Rep. Kim Abbott, D-Helena, supported the bill but had voted against the first two option taxes, including one on luxury goods (HB 195) and another that would give the option to gateway communities (HB 435). Both of those bills were also tabled in committee.

“I’m also really, really tired of saying no to local governments every week. They're in here begging us for help. They’ve given us so many options to help them,” Abbott said.

Bozeman Mayor Cyndy Andrus spoke in support of the bill during its public hearing Thursday. She says more people are coming to Bozeman, so something needs to be done about rising property taxes and failing infrastructure.

“Growth does not and cannot pay for itself through property taxes. This is no longer debatable. I need another tool. I need something that works. If not this, what? If not now, when?” Andrus said.

Republican lawmakers are working on two pieces of legislation to study Montana’s tax structure. Rep. Llew Jones, R-Conrad, and Rep. Nancy Ballance, R-Hamilton, are sponsoring House Bill 715. The bill, which passed its initial vote in the House 59-40, would create a committee of the Legislative Finance Committee and members of the public to study budget needs and tax structures in the interim.

Rep. Alan Redfield, R-Livingston, is introducing House Joint Resolution 35, which is scheduled for a hearing in early April. Redfield’s resolution would function similarly, but also bring in members from the transportation committee.

Tim Pierce is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association, the Greater Montana Foundation and the Montana Newspaper Association.

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