Property taxes emerge as election issue

by Pamela Prah Originally published by Monday, July 17, 2006
Property tax cuts are poised to play a major role in Montana elections this fall, but not in a way some might think. Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer (D), who doesn’t face re-election this year, is using a property tax rebate proposal to fight a “Stop Over Spending”? initiative that anti-tax proponents are trying to get on the state ballot this fall. The ballot initiative is modeled after Colorado’s Taxpayers Bill of Rights, commonly known as TABOR, the country’s strictest state spending cap. Colorado voters last year put TABOR on hold temporarily until the state can rebound from an economic downturn, but Colorado’s change of heart hasn’t stopped anti-tax advocates from trying to get TABOR-like laws enacted elsewhere. Schweitzer’s proposal would give about $400 to every Montana resident homeowner, a move that would be illegal if Montana passed a TABOR-like initiative. “By giving voters a concrete example of how TABOR would actually hurt their own pocketbooks, Schweitzer is changing the tone of the debate,”? said Matt Singer, a spokesman for the Progressive States Network, an organization that describes itself as trying to “fight the conservative machine”? and enact progressive legislation at the state level. Singer said he hopes progressives in other states where spending cap measures may be on the ballot will take a page from Schweitzer’s playbook. Spending limits are already on the 2006 ballots in Maine and Oklahoma. In addition to Montana, anti-tax proponents still are gathering signatures or awaiting verification to put spending limits on the ballots in Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada and Oregon.
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