Legislature derails over Republicans’ inability to compromise

by Jay Stevens

Montana Headlines pointed out a compromise forged by North Dakota Republicans on providing a tax rebate for its citizens in a fiscal situation similar to Montana’s. The details:

North Dakota property tax payers who also pay income taxes may take a credit on their income tax returns equal to 10 percent of the property taxes they pay. The credit is capped at $500 for individuals, and $1,000 for married couples and companies. Any unused credit can be used to offset future income tax bills, or be rebated as a voucher, which then can be used against a future property tax bill.

Of the North Dakota plan, MH writes, “…[this is] legislation that we imagine could have gained bipartisan support here in Montana.”

Were it only so.

The North Dakota plan actually closely resembles Governor Schweitzer’s one-time tax rebate for Montana households, not the Montana GOP’s “permanent tax relief.” As David Sirota recently pointed out,

Republicans were planning on using the usual conservative movement tactics that America has gotten used to. From the trickle-down playbook, they were readying an even bigger property tax cut – one primarily targeted at large corporations (many of which are based out of state).

That’s because the GOP plan would not have a cap, would redistribute the tax relief proportionally based on property tax. That means the largest property owners – big out-of-state corporations – would get the biggest refund, taking the biggest piece of the surplus pie out of the state and leaving the majority of Montanans with the crumbs.

Which would be okay, if all other things were equal.

But they’re not.

Middle class breadwinners actually shoulder as big or larger tax burden than their financial betters. Plus, the costs that are growing the fastest – health care and housing – unavoidable costs and affect the middle class disproportionately. And that’s not to mention that some of our out-of-state corporations who’d receive the lion’s share of tax refund from the state’s GOP are also some of the biggest tax cheats. Things are not equal, and I think it’s reasonable that Montanans demand a fair slice of the economic pie.

The North Dakota plan would be a slight move away from Schweitzer’s plan, giving corporations and married couples a slightly larger share than their single property-owning brethren. But such a cap would no doubt be completely unacceptable to Montana Republicans, who have scuttled the state budget and the legislative session to prevent such a tax rebate.

It’s funny then, that while Montana Headlines apparently sided with the Governor and Democratic legislators on what kind of tax rebate should be doled out to Montanans, he blames the Democratic party and leadership for failing to compromise:

But Republicans suspected that Democrats weren’t serious about any sort of compromise on long-term property tax relief, and until tax relief is decided on, there was — in their opinion — no point in discussing spending levels, since the process would likely end up with a “whoops, sorry, no money for tax relief!.”

And we’re to believe that the Gazette was politically slanted in its criticism of Republican leadership for hamstringing any potential for compromise? Gazette:

Yet a dissection of this failed session shows that the last clear chance to avoid the train wreck belonged to the House GOP leadership. Speaker Scott Sales, R-Bozeman, refused for 10 days to take any action on any of the major spending bills approved by the Senate. The usual process (in our now-outdated textbooks) would have been for the House to accept or reject the Senate’s amendments, and if the House rejected these major amendments, to form a House-Senate conference committee to hammer out a compromise. That’s the way the system is supposed to work.

Yet that’s exactly what happened. By not returning the spending bills, House Republicans ensured that a joint House-Senate committee wouldn’t hammer out compromise spending bills. And when the Governor did approach House leadership with a compromise, Mike Lange responded by suggesting the Governor could put his compromise in Mikey’s rectum.

The Democrats have offered the state a tax refund. As the minority party, the House Republicans should have recognized that they wouldn’t have much input on the substance or form or philosophy of the rebate, but instead have suggested – like the rebate in North Dakota – that the rebate be bigger, aimed at families, included corporations, whatever.

And let’s not kid ourselves, here. The House Republicans are responsible for the session’s derailment. Even before the session started, the Speaker of the House declared war on the Democratic party and promised to obstruct the session. Let’s blame the car crash on the driver, not on the telephone pole he ran into.


  1. March Duke

    But the noxious weed of taxation sprang up with the most luxuriant growth, and darkened the Roman world with its deadly shade. The introduction of a customs tax was followed by the establishment of an excise tax, and the scheme of taxation was completed by an artful assessment on the real and personal property of the Roman citizens…

    — Edward Gibbon
    “The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire”

  2. Yeah yeah, taxes bad. Do you have anything of substance to add here?

  3. March Duke

    I am happy to see that a man of your genius has lent his support to that lowly historian’s view of taxes.

    It would follow then, since you agree taxes are bad, that any attempt to reduce taxes, or eliminate them completely, is good. Therefore, the Republicans are doing a fine job.

  4. I’m sorry, you appear to be confused. Perhaps I can help.

    1) You are confused in assuming that you actually know logic. Not so much. A tad bit of education might help you with that difficulty.

    2) You are confused in thinking that all taxes are the same. They are not, either in collection, effect on the taxed, or how those taxes are spent. Jay just eloquently made that case. If you care to comment, you should at least try to keep up with the obvious.

    3) You sadly confuse the Roman Empire with 21st century America, and worse, with the state of Montana. That is almost pathological, obsessive I would posit, and you might wish to seek professional help.

    4) And this is the Biggie. You are confusing doing nothing with accomplishment. You are confusing me with someone who lives in a state that has a state budget. I don’t; Montana doesn’t. The House of Reprehensibles accomplished nothing along the lines of taxation or the relief of said. They are impotent. You may wish to see that as a “fine job”. I’m sorry, but those of us less confused see it as a dismal failure.

  5. March Duke

    It must be awful to have one’s identity so closely tied to government that one feels personally upset when government breaks down. But I see from your nasty response to my comment that you suffer from a multitude of other personality problems as well, so the impasse in Helena is likely the least of your worries.

  6. Silly silly man. You face rational opposition and all you can do is flee into fancies of false civility, like a good Montana Republican one would think. Answer one, even one, of the rational objections I’ve leveled to your silly quote out of context and I may hold even the barest amount of respect for you. Until then, you deserve nothing. You’ve argued nothing. You have nothing. Silly little troll, bu-bye.

  7. March Duke

    Suggestion: Why not head on down to your local bar and get yourself beat up? Surely someone there will respond to your working class boastfulness.

  8. “working class boastfulness”

    I think I’ll log that one away…




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