Sirota’s “war on the middle class” comes to pass in the Montana legislature

by Jay Stevens

Dagnabit! Just when I was going to sit down and write a post about how the special session was hummin’ along for budget issues, but foundering on tax issues – and not over the substance or amount of relief – but on the collection of taxes, I see David Sirota beat me to the punch:

…the Republican leadership in the Montana legislature has no problem with resident taxpayers paying higher taxes because out-of-state landowners and corporations are being allowed to get away with not paying what they owe. This, folks, is the war on the middle class at work.

The Great Falls Tribune gives us more details, reporting that Republicans offered “amendments rang[ing] from reducing the number of lawyers in the state Department of Revenue to cutting funding for a tax-gap analysis.” And the Billings Gazette and the Daily Interlake gives us some details on exactly who is pulling the strings – it’s Republican Reps. Scott “My Vote’s For” Sales, Bob Lake and John Sonju.

From the Daily Interlake’s piece, Bigfork’s Bill Jones sums up the current session’s logjam:

Rep. Bill Jones, R-Bigfork, said he’s not aware of the details, but he is “disturbed that we’re talking about revenue enhancements when we have a surplus.”

Jones was not among the Republicans who met with Schweitzer’s staff last weekend, but he often votes with that group. He voted in the Republican bloc to pass the major education bill Friday and the governor’s energy bill Saturday.

“There’s two steps that I’ve supported them on right there,” he said.

Looks like Republican corporatists are caving on the budget, on the composition and amount of tax relief (Interlake: “Sonju and Sales, R-Bozeman, both said the bill is laden with so much harmful tax policy that they would not support it even though it also contains tax relief provisions”…), but are trying to derail the process over collecting taxes. That is, they don’t want big business to have to pony up.

And while the Governor is not winning any friends this session and has made a lot of bonehead blunders, it’s quickly becoming evident that this whole Legislature crash has been about protecting out-of-state big business from their tax responsibilities.

I’m not as quick as Sirota to accuse Sales of being bought. After all, Sales and the gang may actually believe it’s in the best interest of the state to relieve business of their tax obligations. It makes for a “business friendly” state! Unfortunately for the rest of us, being “business friendly” means having to pony up and pay a disproportionate amount of taxes.

Sirota calls it a “war on the middle class.” As much as I often chafe at Sirota’s demagoguery, I have to agree.

  1. Larry Kralj, Environmental Rangers!

    Sorry, but I don’t see a lot of “bonehead blunders” on the part of Schweitzer. I see an orchestrated hate campaign by the rightwing. That’s all. That should really be ignored though, and countered, and laughed at. I really don’t think sets a good precedent for ANYONE in Montana to allow this hate campaign to go unchecked. That being said, I’d like you to give just maybe a couple of examples of bonehead blunders, just to keep us all honest. It saddens me to see people who should know better fall into the rightwing trap of hate.

  2. I wish that were true, Larry.


    How about coal-to-gas? That scheme is a crock. The GG promises to sequester the carbon emissions, but the technology isn’t proven.

    How about the GG’s “green” energy bill? It’s a hodge-podge of chaotic tax credits that are likely illegal and appear to have been written by a class of 3rd graders afflicted with ADD.

    What about the piece ‘o crap marching orders the GG sent out to the Dem legislators forbidding all to negotiate with House GOPers on the six-pack?

    And the bullying “rumors” seem to have legs. And I’m hearing it from not from righties, but from lefties.

    As an environmentalist, you should know the gap between rhetoric and reality from the GG’s office.

  3. conservative Billings Resident

    As a DOR employee who is a conservative republican, I can tell you that not much of the staff on the income tax side can see a big point to the “out of state” mantra that Mr. Bucks is pushing. We don’t even have projects now for out of staters. In my opinion we should have to show success first in order to warrant such a jump in DOR budget funds to go after these “out of state” businesses. The basic point is this: We collected $1 billion more than what was budgeted however Mr. Bucks wants more employees to keep collecting. We will have a budget surplus every year and no tax breaks and more spending. It’s not a cycle us republicans want to be a part of.

  4. Larry Kralj, Environmental Rangers!

    Yes, it’s true. I’m a enviro. And I fought Colstrip one and two. And I fought heapleach goldmining tooth and nail. And I’ve read and re-read the Rape of the Great Plains by K. Ross Toole. And it’s one of my favorite books. And I don’t want to see even EASTERN Montana turned into a sacrifice zone. But I also believe that that’s a long way from happening. And I will look at the technology in practice before I condemn it. But I’m also willing to hear Schweitzer out and listen to his ideas.

  5. Interesting that you characterize taxes as a responsibility and not a forceful coercion of individual gain (the citizen or firm) by government. How is it we somehow naturally owe the government money by being currently alive?

    Although, I get your point about the “rent seeking,” of the out of state firms and the gop’s apparent “protection” of them vs. Montana taxpayers. That’s certainly condemnable.

  6. We “owe” taxes as responsible citizens who accept our share of the infrastructure.

  7. As Mark sneakily points out, we don’t “owe” taxes. We choose them, through our elected representatives, who use those taxes to pay for the things that we want/need, like roads, a military …

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