Whitefish Rep. Mike Jopek called today with news that the House-Senate Joint Select Committee on Property Reappraisal has passed out a bill to mitigate property tax increases. House Bill 658, which Jopek is carrying, now heads to the House Taxation Committee. The bill tackles the reappraisal values on four main classes of property: agricultural, forest, commercial and residential – the combined value of which has risen to a level that it would bring in an estimated $228 million in coming years, Jopek said. The committee’s task was to figure out how to amend Montana’s property tax policy such that owners of land that has skyrocketed in value don’t get taxed out of their homes. The majority of this increase in value – some $190 million out of the four classes of property – is residential.
The sprawling legislation contains a number of exemptions, for all Montana homeowners – particularly those who live here seven months out of the year – as well special breaks for wounded veterans and seniors, among others. The bill also contains a so-called ‘circuit breaker,” which ensures someone’s property taxes cannot increase more than 3 percent annually, by tying one’s income to their property tax bill. Additionally, the bill would shorten the property reappraisal cycle from three years to six years.
Jopek emphasized that the bill has a lot of hurdles to clear in the forms of committee and further votes, and it is almost certain to be heavily amended, considering its size. More details will emerge next week as legislative staffers calculate its fiscal impacts. Nor is Jopek the only one carrying such legislation; several other lawmakers are working on their own versions, so its not clear at this point whether Jopek’s bill will end up being the final vehicle for property reappraisal.
But more than anything else, Jopek believes the property reappraisal policy that emerges from the current legislative session will have the biggest impact on property taxes in Montana than any other bill. What the final product looks like remains unknown, but deadlines, timelines and the looming end of the session means whatever competing plans lawmakers may roll out needs to happen soon.
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