Guest Column

Montana Tax Policy Shouldn’t Favor Corporations Over Workers

Providing a tax giveaway to large corporations gives them an unfair competitive advantage over Main Street businesses

By Mary Ann Dunwell

Montana families and workers expect our state government to tax people fairly, invest in our safety and future, and give Montanans the opportunity to get ahead in life.

Unfortunately, last year Governor Greg Gianforte and Montana Republicans saddled Montana homeowners with a $200 million residential property tax increase, cut property taxes for large corporations, and then topped it off by providing global corporations a free lunch to lower their Montana taxes.

This last tax exploit, while receiving less attention, is every bit as frustrating. In 2023, the Montana Republicans pushed through an unfair tax change, SB 246 (by a party-line vote in the state Senate) that makes it easier for multinational corporations to avoid paying Montana taxes by shifting profits overseas.

Just when you thought the Montana Republicans’ approach of favoring the ultrawealthy and large corporations couldn’t sink any lower, they up the ante by encouraging tax abuse in tax havens like Luxembourg, the Cayman Islands, and Singapore.

This new law not only invites tax abuse and avoidance from international corporations –favoring these large companies over regular Montanans – it means we’ll all be paying more taxes to balance the budget.

It’s also a slap in the face to Montana’s small businesses. Providing a tax giveaway to large corporations gives them an unfair competitive advantage over Main Street businesses, further increasing the already uneven playing field between large corporations and struggling mom and pop businesses in Montana.

When confronted by angry taxpayers, instead of fixing the problem Governor Gianforte first tried to ignore the issue and then went so far as to sue Montana counties to force them to implement the property tax increase on Montana homeowners.

In short, rather than listening to the public, the Republican-dominated legislature and Governor Gianforte (1) doubled down in support of their historic permanent annual property tax increase on Montana homeowners, (2) cut property taxes for large corporations, and (3) made it easier for global corporations to reduce Montana taxes even though they benefit from operating in Montana.

So that’s the bad news. But there is hope. Don’t be fooled by the Republicans’ gimmicks and rhetoric. Your homeowner property taxes did not have to go up and nothing requires that tax laws unfairly favor the super wealthy and corporations over hardworking Montanans. 

We can and must fix this and bring fairness back to Montana’s tax laws. As Democrats, we will proudly stand up and fight for tax fairness for you—the Montana homeowner and small business owner. 

Montana Democrats have a plan to restore tax fairness to Montana homeowners. This means eliminating the unfair $200 million property tax shift from large corporations onto homeowners and small businesses. It also means fixing the tax system so that it doesn’t encourage abuse and giveaways to multinational corporations.

So, as you prepare your state income tax returns this tax season and scrimp and save this Spring to pay the extreme property tax increases brought to you by Governor Gianforte and his Republican-majority legislature, mark your calendars for November when you have the chance to vote for fairness. 

It’s time for Helena to remember that Montana’s people, not the super-wealthy or multi-national corporations, are the true owners of our state government and that it should work for them. It’s time to put Montanans first.

Sen. Mary Ann Dunwell, D-Helena, serves on the Senate Taxation and Local Government Committees.