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Sales Tax Considered In Montana

Sales tax in Montana has been resoundingly rejected multiple times over the years.

Sales Tax Considered In Montana

Sales Tax Considered In Montana

By Tim Ravndal

Montana Legislature meets every two years.  The 2019 legislative session has reached the half way point with 1060 pieces of legislation having been introduced for consideration. Many people of Montana are wondering how things get done.   It is said that the legislature is a sausage making machine and this session perhaps qualifies as a model.

The effort to bring a sales tax to Montana has been resoundingly rejected multiple times over the years.  A campaign slogan back in the late 1960’s: “Pay More…What For” was used by Gubernatorial Candidate Forest Anderson.  His opposition to a sales tax resulted in a landslide victory against incumbent Tim Babcock.  A sales tax in Montana continues to be a political hot potato.

Multiple attempts at introducing a sales tax have been made in Montana.  Each time, the people have said no!

Rep. Kerry White (R-Bozeman)

This year Representative Kerry White, House District 64 from Bozeman, introduced HB300.  The bill is an expansive revision of Montana taxation laws.  The new law if enacted will amend over 340 existing laws and repeal approximately 310 laws.

The legislation as introduced is 426 pages that works to explain how the tax will be implemented and administered by the State of Montana.  Between the two houses, Montana’s 150 representatives will need to review and debate the bill in the short 90 day legislative session.  The expansive bill is part of HB2 that sets the Montana general budget for the next fiscal cycle.

The bill has a proposal that would provide the people of Montana the month of November as a vacation from the provisions of the tax.  It is said that this provision is inserted into the law to offset the opposition brought forward by small business owners that are voicing their concerns over the loss of business.

Montana Constitution, as amended in 1972, provides for up to a 4% sales tax.  the bill opens the door with a 2.5% tax that will go into effect on January 1, 2020.  In reviewing the history of a sales tax in other states, the rate has continually been adjusted upward as infrastructure costs increase.  Nationally the Tax Foundation put out a report in January 2019 on 45 states and the District of Columbia that are currently assessing a sales tax.

Many of the citizens of Montana that we asked are cautious to endorse the idea.  It is said that if the legislation eliminates the property taxes in Montana then they would then and only then support the new sales tax.  If property taxes are not totally eliminated they are in full opposition to the sales tax.

Revenue for Montana schools has been under stress due to the loss of federal funding including the Secure Rural Schools Act that has been done away with.  With administration costs continually increasing in public education new funding sources are in high demand. School funding would see a segment of the sales tax help fund public education at the state level.

Impact to local government is not fully addressed but there are technological problems identified in the fiscal note.  Local government implementation of the sales tax as well as administration of the revenues generated will increase demand on local government across the board.

The State of Montana will create a new 5 member commission to administer the sales tax.  The commission will be elected, but an initial appointment may be necessary due to the effective date of the law if passed.  That would provide for the current governor to fill the initial board with his choices.  Initially the state government will require an increase of 35 new full time employees to administer the program.  Multiple legislators voice concern in the projected increase in cost going to government program administration.

Citizens also voiced their concern that there are many resident and non-resident citizens that do not contribute and should be brought into the tax schedule to be fair for everyone.  However low income families in Montana will be severely impacted by the sales tax.  Senior citizens also on limited income will see an impact that has not been fully analyzed.

There is a recent push among many communities in Montana to capture additional revenue by enacting a local option sales tax. This action may be triggered by designating a tourism dependent community.  The local option includes but is not limited to a bed tax and can be enacted by local government officials.  It appears that although the Constitution limits the state at 4%, local communities are not limited by that provision.

Representative White has put a huge amount of work into HB300 and hopes to see support from the people of Montana.  The bill was heard in the House judiciary committee where the process brought forward a revised 20 page fiscal note on the bill.  The fiscal note provides a summary of the known and perceived impacts to the State of Montana.

Many legislators are voicing concern over full understanding of the short and long term impacts on the people. The bill was first heard on February 6th and is still in the House Taxation Committee where it is being analyzed.  The legislative process requires the bill to be transmitted out of the house by April 1, 2019.  The Montana Senate will then have until April 16, 2019 to review the bill and add amendments for consideration.


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9 Comments on Sales Tax Considered In Montana

  1. here you go . they say most people support it. that’s total bs right there. who in their right mind wants a sales tax so they increase the size of government? nobody but politicians. that’s why I said “right mind”. THey are not. they want bigger government and a big raise. They want your money to do all that so they have more control over you. Wake up People.

  2. I am apprehensive to take a 426 page bill and expect it to get proper attention to detail. It was once said that if a piece of legislation is too voluminous, then perhaps the people need to stomp it in the dirt. (paraphrased) However, a more modern version is something to the extent of we need to pass it to see what is in it. 🙁

  3. I like this–about, as you said, if and only if the property tax is killed thoroughly. I would also prefer a cap on the local option tax–maybe 1%?

    • The door is open to do this right, but I am not convinced that the back room deals are closed. If we allow the process to go forward without full transparency I am not sure we can ever see an end to what history has already shown us regarding a sales tax. This is also known as taxation without representation.

  4. The people making rules have succeeded in perfecting the “Circle Jerk”….first they tax us…then, via “Universal Basic Income” they seek to give us money to pay our Taxes.

    Alas, if it was only regulated to being humorous, because the mobsters will come around if/and/or when things stop working and say, “See, we did something for you, now yous do someting for us, git it? Whees got a work assignment for yous at dis place called de Kulag. Very diverse place…you’ll meet some new people…it will do yous good.”

    • There is truth to the full circle analysis. Here in the people’s house, the rights of the people are incrementally being chipped away at one bill at a time. nuff said.
      Tim Ravndal

      • If you grow up with the Sales Tax it becomes entrenched like a custom; something that has incrementally become a part of daily life. But if you don’t grow up with it it is an affront. I grew up on military bases overseas where the base Post Exchange’s do not charge sales tax…the price of a thing was what was to be paid. Even in grade school I would take the bathroom pass and go sit in the library and read about the people who created the American Revolution (albeit books aimed at children). So the Boston Tea Party and taxes were sparking around my mind when my Pop retired from the USN and settled in Utah.

        My first trip to a 7-11 I put a dollar’s worth of Bazooka bubble gum and a coke on the counter and the lady, my fellow citizen, promptly said, “That will be a $1.08”. Huh! What’s a matter…can’t you cipher, miss? These things add up to a $1.00. So after some ‘splaining to how things were in the good ole USA I was introduced to the Sales Tax.

        I had my suspicions right then that things were a-splipping.

        “…a long habit of NOT thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defence of custom.” – Thomas Paine – “Common Sense” Introduction

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