Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer (D) is once again putting his populist economic agenda into action, this time introducing a major property tax relief plan that shows how progressives can redefine the entire tax debate.
Chuck Johnson, the dean of the Montana press corps, reports that Schweitzer's plan promises "$100 million in one-time property tax relief - $400 a piece for all 250,000 Montana households
" and it "figures to be a cornerstone of Democratic legislative candidates' pledges." Check out the details - and how the property tax relief is targeted at the vast majority of Montanans, rather than the GOP plan to give away most tax relief to the wealthy and big out-of-state corporations:
"The Schweitzer plan, part of his new Square Deal, provides no tax relief for second homes owned by Montanans or recreation homes owned here by out-of-staters. It would give no tax relief to businesses or corporations, which he said had reaped millions of dollars in tax relief under Republicans. 'This is by far the largest rebate in Montana history,' Schweitzer said in Billings. 'This dwarfs what the Republicans do.' He poked holes in the Republican plan, saying it would shortchange Montana homeowners while dispatching millions of dollars in tax relief to out-of-state corporations such as PPL and BNSF Railway.
Schweitzer said the GOP plan would cut statewide tax mills permanently for all classes of property -- residential, agricultural, business and industrial. His, in contrast, is aimed squarely at homeowners."
Schweitzer also notes that consevatives' so-called "Stop Over Spending" ballot initiative (a euphemism for so-called "Taxpayer Bill of Rights" legislation that has created disaster in other states
) would actually bar his tax cuts:
"Schweitzer used his rebate plan as a tool in the fight against Constitutional Initiative 97. The measure would cap state spending at no more than the combined increase in inflation and population. Schweitzer said CI-97 would stop the $400 check per household from being delivered. The initiative would require any rebates to be distributed on a pro-rata basis to all taxpayers across all classes, based on how much they paid. If CI-97 passes and Schweitzer's rebate plan passes, instead of every homeowner receiving an identical $400 check, Revenue Director Dan Bucks said the owner of a $100,000 home would get only $123, while the owner of $1 million home would collect $1,234.
Out-of-staters with trophy homes here would share in the rebates, as would businesses and corporations."
In its editorial supporting Schweitzer's plan
, the Helena Independent Record points out exactly how the governor's ideas contrast with Montana Republicans' efforts to simply fork over more hard-earned taxpayer cash to the wealthy:
"An 8-percent cut on all classifications of property taxes proposed by some Republicans last week would net the owner of a $100,000 house just $88, compared to $400 under Schweitzer's plan. But to the out-of-state owner of a $1 million vacation home, the GOP's plan would fork over $887 (the California owner of an actual $16,263,247 home in Flathead County would get $14,263). Likewise, such a property tax cut for PPL Montana would send $1,793,839 to the company's headquarters in Pennsylvania. Not exactly a boon to our state's economy."
So there you have it, folks - that's the contrast between Montana conservatives and Montana progressives. The former is openly trying to give away more of our state's wealth to already-wealthy out-of-state corporations and individuals (think zillionaires like Paris Hilton), while feeding the rest of us crumbs. Meanwhile, the latter is working to provide real property tax relief to the vast majority of in-state residents in a fiscally responsible way.