Backers of Tax Initiative Say They Have Signatures

By Beacon Staff

HELENA – Backers of a proposed constitutional initiative that blocks the government from ever imposing a certain type of real estate tax said Thursday that they have enough signatures to get on the ballot.

Constitutional Initiative 105 would prevent the adoption of a tax on the sale or inheritance of property. No such tax exists in Montana at the moment, but it has been suggested at the Legislature in the past.

“It’s a double tax, because we already pay property taxes in Montana,” said Chuck Denowh, with a group called the Coalition to Prevent Double Taxation. “We see this as an opportunity to end this fight once and for all.”

Backers that include ranching and real estate groups said they turned in more than 75,000 signatures at last week’s deadline.

It will take several weeks for local and state officials to make sure the requirement of 48,674 signatures was reached, along with at least 10 percent of the voters in 40 House districts.

“We’re extremely confident we will qualify for the November ballot,” Denowh said.

There is no formal opposition to the idea yet, but the state’s largest public sector union said it thinks the initiative is a bad idea.

The state should not write tax code into the constitution and should not be taking potential sources of revenue off the table in tough financial times, said Eric Feaver, president of the MEA-MFT.

“I just find that to be bad government,” Feaver said. “Unfortunately I don’t think enough people have spoke out against it.”

Feaver said it would be tough to rally people to oppose a ban on a tax that does not yet exist, since there would be no immediate cost to state coffer or services.

The Montana Stockgrowers Association is in favor of the ban, saying such a tax would splinter family ranches unable to come up with the money when they are handed down from one generation to the next.

The Montana Realtors Association said it is unfair to take a portion of an owner’s equity when their property is sold.

The coalition promised to continue its full-scale campaign through the general election.