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Montana lawmakers vote unanimously to oppose property tax cap initiative

 Todd O'Hair, president and CEO of the Montana Chamber of Commerce, speaks to state lawmakers April 19, 2022.
Montana Public Radio
Todd O'Hair, president and CEO of the Montana Chamber of Commerce, speaks to state lawmakers April 19, 2022.

In a rare bipartisan, unanimous vote Tuesday, state lawmakers declared their opposition to a proposed change to the Montana Constitution that would cap residential property taxes.

“Disastrous,” “clumsy” and “drastic” were the words used to describe Constitutional Initiative 121 during a legislative revenue interim committee meeting.

“Montana businesses are supportive of comprehensive tax reform. CI-121 is neither comprehensive, nor is it even reform," said Montana Chamber of Commerce executive director Todd O’Hair. "It is a clumsy bludgeon, similar to a bull in a china closet."

Experts in business, taxation, local government and public education convened to talk about the potential impacts of the proposal to limit residential property taxes.

They expressed concerns about major budget cuts to services, like police and fire departments, and the ways in which the tax burden would shift to nonresidential property owners.

If passed, the initiative would task the state legislature with creating a new property tax system.

“I have huge concerns about our ability as a Legislature to actually work through this,” Democratic Sen. Jill Cohenour said. “And to be able to figure out ways to not harm the services that folks really, really do need.”  

Organizations representing realtors, farmers and low-income Montanans also spoke in opposition to the proposal. No one spoke in support.

Former Republican lawmaker Matthew Monforton and current state Auditor Troy Downing submitted CI-121.

Republican Rep. Becky Beard said it’s important for policymakers to talk about tax reform, but she brought the motion for the state revenue committee to symbolically oppose the initiative.

“This is an issue that really needs to be discussed in a full legislative session," Beard said.

Supporters of the initiative have until June 17 to collect more than 60,000 signatures needed to put the proposal on the 2022 ballot.

Copyright 2022 Montana Public Radio. To see more, visit Montana Public Radio.

Shaylee is a UM Journalism School student. She reports and helps produce Montana Evening News on MTPR.