Legislative Update: Thursday, March 23

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Dick Barrett

Proposal would head off future sales tax

By Cole Grant

A bill heard in the Montana Senate Thursday would let voters decide if the Constitution should prohibit a future general statewide sales tax option.

Senate Bill 351’s sponsor, Sen. Dick Barrett, D-Missoula, says a statewide sales tax would unfairly tax people with lower income.

“The higher your income, the lower the percentage of your income that you pay in tax,” he said. “Or turn it the other way around, the lower your income, the higher the percentage of your income that you pay in tax.”

He also says the proposed constitutional amendment would not include a ban on local option taxes.

Bridger Mahlum with the Montana Chamber of Commerce says the chances of passing a statewide sales tax are slim. But, he said, “It is a potential tool in the toolbox as tax policy evolves over time, and the hurdles again that would be created through constitutionally disallowing this sort of tax to ever happen might be just one step too far.”

Since it’s a constitutional amendment, it would need a two-thirds vote of the entire Legislature. Then, it would need voter approval.

Cole Grant is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association and the Greater Montana Foundation.

Bill takes aim at invasive aquatic species

By Freddy Monares

Montana lawmakers are trying to be proactive about an aquatic invasive species recently discovered in Montana.

Aquatic invasive species can harm native ecosystems and that can have impacts on commercial, agricultural and recreational activities.

Senate Bill 363 would require out-of-state owners of watercraft to buy two decals. Those funds would be deposited in the state’s invasive species account to be used on prevention and control.

Bill sponsor Sen. Chas Vincent, R-Libby, said, “We’re making sure that we’re going to have something that’s effective, making sure that it is not going to be cost-prohibitive and being something that can hopefully be a model for other states.”

The bill also seeks to charge hydroelectric facilities a $1 invasive species fee for every 2500 kilowatt hour produced.

The Senate Natural Resource Committee will hear first testimony on the bill Friday.

Freddy Monares is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association and the Greater Montana Foundation.

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