One of the most important policy issues that will emerge from the current Legislative session, but one that has received the least press so far, is how lawmakers deal with property tax reappraisal in a way that doesn’t jack up taxes so high people are forced out of their homes in areas where home values have skyrocketed while the economy has plummeted – areas like, oh I don’t know, the Flathead? But as with so many vitally important issues, mitigating these property tax increases on Montanans is so complicated as to be incomprehensible. Like just about every issue in this state, circumstances in eastern Montana are vastly different from those west of the Divide – hence the complications of enacting a statewide policy that works for everyone.
When I was in Helena, I spoke with Rep. Mike Jopek, D-Whitefish, who sits on the Joint Select Committee on Reappraisal, and he praised the process thus far as being the most open and accessible in the history of the state, and you can listen to the committee’s discussions here. But a story today by Lee’s Capitol Bureau Chief Chuck Johnson implies that the committee is, perhaps, not making the progress it should be by now:
The Joint Select Committee on Reappraisal has been met 13 times, twice a week since Jan. 13, but has yet to agree on any ways to ease the sting of the latest reappraisal on homeowners. The bipartisan committee, made up of senators and representatives, has only three meetings left and faces a March 20 deadline to draft a committee bill.
The panel has received stacks of statistical reports from the Revenue Department, asked agency officials many questions and often requested more research. In meeting after meeting, members have had lengthy, often-unfocused discussions without reaching conclusions.
The story goes on to explain the committee has basically worked out five scenarios of which it has asked Revenue Department analysts to crunch the numbers on to see what the tax effects would be. Look for this committee to move into high gear over the next three weeks.
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