Montana Public Radio

Proposed Legislation Would Require Supermajority To Approve Tax Hikes

Jan 22, 2019

Montana may join 15 other states in making it more difficult to pass new or increased taxes.

A simple majority of the state Legislature can currently approve new taxes or fees. But House Bill 148 introduced Tuesday would raise that threshold to a two-thirds supermajority.

Republican Rep. Forrest Mandeville of Columbus is carrying the legislation.

“There should be a high threshold when burdening our constituents with new or higher taxes.”

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, eight other states require a two-thirds vote of the Legislature to create or increase certain taxes. Seven others set the bar at three-quarters or three-fifths.

The Montana Legislature does already require these kinds of supermajority votes in some situations, like in overriding a governor’s veto or approving the state to take on debt.

However, Gov. Steve Bullock’s administration says adding this requirement on taxes could violate the Montana Constitution.

Dan White is chief legal counsel for the Department of Revenue.

“The delegates of the constitution specifically said these are circumstances under which we think there should be more than a simple majority.”

The bill’s sponsor says the policy proposal did not come with a note warning of a possible constitutional conflict from the legislative legal counsel and he disagrees with the administration’s analysis.

The state’s largest public union is opposing the idea to make it harder to pass new or higher taxes. Organizations that advocate for low-income people are also voicing opposition, saying it will make it more difficult to fund government services.

The bill is supported by the Montana Taxpayers Association and the National Federation of Independent Businesses.

The House Taxation Committee did not vote on the bill immediately following its initial hearing Tuesday.