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July 10, 2006

Montana Gov Smacks Down Rightwing on Property Taxes

Folks may be missing the rightwing movement across the states to generate another "tax revolt", this one around the so-called "Taxpayer Bill of Rights" (TABOR) restrictions on government spending.

Well, Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer just hit them hard with his own tax proposal which is something of a triple whammy-- it's progressive, it's politically messed up the GOP leadership, and severely undercut the TABOR ballot initiative slotted for the Montana ballot this fall.Read more about it at the Progressive States blog and this week's Stateside Dispatch, but the summary is this:

Instead of an open-ended tax cut that would give more to the wealthy, Schweitzer is proposing a $400 per homeowner tax cut, where commercial landowners get zippo.

And here's the kicker in undercutting the tax revolt:

In a move that has already drawn praise for its political acumen, Schweitzer has already started using his property tax rebate as a tool to fight Montana's proposed TABOR amendment. Like in other states across the country, Montana is facing a TABOR ballot initiative this fall -- a proposal to strictly limit spending increases and require that the state refund most of the money not spent to taxpayers. But as Schweitzer's Administration has pointed out, the TABOR amendment narrowly outlines how the money can be rebated. And progressive, flat rebates like the Schweitzer plan would be illegal in most cases if the TABOR amendment passes.

Realizing they had already been outflanked on the property tax debate, rightwing leaders howled with rage upon realizing that the Governor had also found a useful tool for defeating their disastrous spending plan. And by giving voters a concrete example of how the TABOR will actually hurt their own pocketbooks, Schweitzer promises to significantly change the tone of the debate over the spending cap this fall.

This is what makes the Montana maneuver so interesting-- with a growing budget surplus, Schweitzer beat the tax revolters to the punch and not only handed some of the surplus out in a progressive way, but did it in a way that undercuts political support for the TABOR-style tax limitation initiative.

This is about progressives being proactive before they are forced to take measures later that are less than ideal. Read the Dispatchfor both what Schweitzer is doing and other policies that could be used in other states to undercut rightwing tax revolt campaigns.

Posted by Nathan at July 10, 2006 04:12 PM