Montana Public Radio

Gov Bullock Warns Of Budget Problems If Tobacco Tax Initiative Fails

Sep 19, 2018

Governor Steve Bullock told county government leaders Wednesday that a ballot initiative to increase Montana’s tobacco tax is the right thing to do for basic health-related reasons.

On Wednesday, Bullock warned a Montana Association of Counties meeting in Missoula of dire consequences if voters don’t approve Initiative-185.

“If I-185 fails to pass the ballot initiative we’re going to be in for a tough (2019 legislative) session," Bullock said. "If you thought cuts from last special session were difficult I think you should brace, unfortunately, for even more.”

I-185 would raise the state’s tobacco taxes by $2 a pack and tax chewing tobacco and electronic cigarettes to pay for an extension of Montana’s Medicaid expansion program, which is set to expire next year.

In last November’s special legislative session, state lawmakers and Bullock cut $70 million from the state budget in the wake of flagging state revenues.

More than $45 million of those cuts are now being restored.

The initiative’s advocates warn that if it fails, upwards of 100,000 Montanans will lose their health insurance coverage.

The measure’s opponents describe I-185 as a massive new tax hike.