Local-option tax long overdue

Print Article

Just as there is a divide between big cities and small towns in national politics, so too there is a marked division between urban areas and rural counties in Montana ó and never is that division more marked than when the topic is local-option sales taxes.

Every two years, cities from across Montana send representatives to Helena to lobby the Legislature for the ability of city residents to impose a sales tax that would supplement property taxes as a means of paying for infrastructure and other needs.

And every two years, just as predictably, representatives and senators from small towns and sparely populated counties push back against the idea. Thatís because rural Montana residents often recreate in those bigger towns and cities, so they would be paying the tax while not getting back any of the revenue.

This week, the debate was renewed. Rep. Dave Fern, D-Whitefish, is the sponsor of House Bill 577, which would allow local governments to impose a sales tax of up to 4 percent on lodging, restaurants, bars and luxury items. Fernís involvement is welcome. As a resident of Whitefish, he is well aware of the success of the resort tax (a limited form of sales tax) in that community, so he makes a good ambassador for the concept.

Kalispellís city manager, Doug Russell, testified on Tuesday before the House Taxation Committee that the city could raise an estimated $6.5 million per year from a 2 percent tax. Thatís actually more than the city collected in property taxes last year. What a windfall for strapped municipalities.

The goal of sales-tax proponents is to see out-of-state visitors pay for part of the infrastructure they use in cities like Kalispell and Bozeman, and that makes sense. Moreover, local property taxes would be partly rebated back in cities with a local-option tax, so this is a form of tax relief as well.

The best argument against the sales tax is that it wonít apply to online sellers like Amazon, so there is an incentive for local shoppers to take their money elsewhere to avoid the tax. But letís face it, that only applies to the luxury items ó not to hotels, restaurants and bars. People arenít going to be ordering their meals and drinks online, and the folks who are paying for luxury items probably have enough spare change that they arenít going to be hindered by a 4 percent surcharge.

Itís a long shot that the Legislature will approve the bill, and even less likely that Gov. Steve Bullock would sign it after he won re-election partly by painting Greg Gianforte falsely as a sales-tax proponent.

Still, itís a good idea whose time surely must come sooner or later. If it doesnít work out this session, weíll be back two years from now making the same arguments.

Print Article

Read More Editorial

Cyber attack a wakeup call for Flathead

September 20, 2017 at 6:00 am | Daily Inter Lake For most of us, the last week in Flathead County has seemed like something out of a movie. The idea that an anonymous hacker or hackers could shut down 19 school districts as well as several private...

Comments

Read More

On balance, itís yes for Whitefish levy

September 17, 2017 at 6:00 am | Daily Inter Lake Taxpayers in the Whitefish School District have a big decision to make over the next couple of weeks. Do they want to spend $26.5 million for a new elementary school? Ballots were mailed out Friday ...

Comments

Read More

Hail to the thief: Trump steals the hope of conservatives

September 16, 2017 at 7:00 pm | Daily Inter Lake The silent coup has apparently succeeded. President Trump has been convinced to abandon his revolutionary program of putting ďAmerica First,Ē and has decided to play footsy with globalists like Chuck...

Comments

Read More

Two new civic projects grace Kalispell

September 15, 2017 at 6:00 am | Daily Inter Lake Kalispell is celebrating the recent opening of two new amenities that are sure to be well received by the entire valley. Last weekend the long-planned Foys to Blacktail Trail reached the finish line...

Comments

Read More

Contact Us

News: (406) 837-5131
Advertising: 406-758-4410
Bigfork Eagle
c/o Daily Inter Lake
PO Box 7610
Kalispell, MT 59904

©2017 Bigfork Eagle Terms of Use Privacy Policy
X
X