Montana Public Radio

State Lawmaker Proposes Constitutional Amendment Limiting Tax Options

Feb 4, 2021

A Kalispell Republican has revived an effort to amend Montana’s Constitution in an attempt to fundamentally change the state’s tax code. Critics say the proposed policy is confusing and could leave a massive hole in the state budget.

Rep. Derek Skees says House Bill 261 is meant to protect taxpayers. It would amend Montana’s Constitution to say the state can only put in place three types of taxes: income, property and sales. It would also limit the state by requiring that only two of those taxes be in place at any time.

Rep. Derek Skees, R-Kalispell, chair of the House Rules Committee, listens as representatives debate over an amendment to “blast” motion rules on Jan. 8, 2019.
Credit Shaylee Ragar / UM Legislative News Service

Skees said the bill would create an avenue for a statewide sales tax, which he would support if income or property taxes were nixed. 

“You have to eliminate one to bring the sales tax," he said.

Skees brought a similar bill in 2019 that died on the House floor. That legislation was expected to cost the state’s general fund about $240 million each biennium. 

No one spoke in support of the latest version of the bill. Montana Women Vote, the Montana Taxpayers Association and the Montana Budget and Policy Center oppose it.

Bob Story is with the Taxpayers Association. He said the language of the bill is confusing, and wondered if it would prevent the state from collecting excise taxes, motor vehicle fees and other taxes.

“If it does, then of course you can see the hole that’s going to appear in the state budget," Story said.

Lawmakers have yet to take a vote on the bill.