Time to Separate Politics from Property Tax Reform

By Beacon Staff

Bipartisan politics, Republican budget vs. the governor’s budget and veto power are making headlines daily. About the only issues both parties appear to agree on is to ignore property tax reform again and it is politically astute for the state to continue a policy to shift the burden of property taxes from Eastern Montana to the West.

The people we have elected to enforce our constitution and protect all of our residents have ignored the adverse affects of a mismanaged 2008 reappraisal, refused to recognize that HB 658 does not provide equal protection/treatment for all, and blocked every proposed bill that could have given the people an equitable, predictable and financially stable property tax system.

This “do nothing” policy, when it is obvious that our property tax system has failed, is evidence that our leaders do not really care that the taxes from Montanans who have owned property for generations are being forced to sell their homes, and, since little property is being sold, have to borrow money for taxes. Further, few people believe they could sell their property at the overstated appraised value and all are aware that real property values are decreasing every month. So we are paying more tax than we should anyway.

Adding insult to injury is the fact that our mills are being increased because of the 2008 reappraisal errors as well as to compensate for EPTAP reductions in taxable value, adjustments in value due to protests, and to replace lost revenue to schools.

Matters only get worse when one realizes that this agony is completely unnecessary; he is paying increased taxes not to help pay for schools or services but only to offset the decreases in taxable value of owners whose market value increase is below the state average.

You should know that by blocking proposed reform bills, our governor, as well as the Legislature, refused to consider allowing the statewide taxable value to increase to provide additional university/school revenue of $20 million in 2011-2012 and $40 million in 2013-2014 at no additional cost to the taxpayers. How can anyone, knowing the problems we have funding the university/schools, refuse to change Montana’s property tax system from tax shifting back to a controlled revenue source? It makes no sense to reduce services or revenue when an alternate or unused revenue source is available.

The people of Montana are experiencing politics at its worst, and politics has no place when it comes to taxation. Our governor, who is our designated “champion,” refuses to get involved in the property tax debacle, and there is not one legislator with the guts to stand up and say, “Enough is enough!”

Montana Residents for Fair Property Tax has been trying to use the “system” for over eight years; stymied at every turn by the East Side legislators taking revenge from some past sin where the West benefitted from the prosperity of the East. The people of Montana need property tax reform now and the only alternative we have left is to prove that HB 658 is unconstitutional and the taxpayers/owners of property in growth areas are being discriminated against for political reasons. We have retained counsel and plan to file suit now that Legislative Session is over. (We know the governor is well aware of our plight and had hoped he would intervene when he was made aware that nothing is being done by telling the Legislature and Department of Revenue to fix the problems.)

For more information or to sign-up to join our effort, please go to our web site: http://mtproptax.org/. You can contact me by email from the site or call 862-9785.

Dud Mahler lives in Whitefish.

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