Signatures for CI-121 continue to lag 10 days before deadline

By: - June 6, 2022 5:33 pm

(From a Montana Department of Revenue presentation for the Daily Montanan)

A lot of people have spoken in recent months about the need to fix the way Montanans are taxed — but one of the proposed solutions isn’t getting much traction.

Monday, with just 10 days before a signature gathering deadline, the Montana Secretary of State’s Office counted just 1,739 accepted signatures for Constitutional Initiative 121 to get on the ballot. That’s not even 3 percent of the necessary 60,359 by June 17.

CI-121 bills itself as a cap on residential property taxes. An analysis by the Montana Department of Revenue shows impacts would vary, some results would depend on ensuing action by the Montana Legislature, and some residential properties could see increases in certain cases.

Matthew Monforton, an officer with Cap Montana Property Taxes committee, said he believes another 10,000 or so signatures might be gathered but have yet to be turned in to the Secretary of State. But he said whether proponents can reach 60,000 remains a question.

“We think there’s a chance, because the last two weeks, the number of signatures turned in has ramped up significantly, but we’ll need to increase that pace even more to get to 60,000,” Monforton said.

Ron Ostberg, with Know the Consequences, NO on CI-121 committee, said he believes one reason signatures are lagging is that a diverse group of some 20 large organizations has been getting the word out about negative outcomes. He said problems are apparent for schools, farmers and ranchers, and small business owners.

“If this thing were to pass, it would be the biggest wreck that the state has ever seen,” Ostberg said.

Out of the total 2,036 signatures processed as of Monday morning, the Secretary of State’s Office also counted 260 rejected signatures and 37 blank lines or crossed out signatures.

In April, Lee Enterprises reported Republicans and Democrats on the Interim Revenue Committee unanimously voted to oppose CI-121. The decision did not affect the initiative but it mirrored opposition to it by representatives from numerous statewide organizations, who in part argue agricultural land and businesses will end of paying more.

However, at public meetings about CI-121, many opponents have agreed that the problem the initiative aims to address — rising property taxes — is a significant concern in Montana. 

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Keila Szpaller
Keila Szpaller

Keila Szpaller is deputy editor of the Daily Montanan and covers education. In Montana since 1998, she loves hiking in Glacier National Park, wandering the grounds of the Archie Bray and sitting on her front porch with friends. Before joining States Newsroom Montana, she served as city editor of the Missoulian, the largest news outlet in western Montana. She worked there from 2006 to 2020. As a Missoulian reporter, she was named a co-fellow by the Education Writers Association to report on a series about economic mobility; grantee of the Society of Environmental Journalists for a project on conservation from the U.S. to Africa; and Kiplinger Fellow in Digital Media and Public Affairs Journalism. She previously worked at the Great Falls Tribune and Missoula Independent, and she earned her master’s in journalism from the University of Montana. She lives in Missoula with her husband, Brock, who is also her favorite chef, and her pup, Henry, who is her favorite adventure companion. She believes she deserves to wear the T-shirt with this saying: “World’s most mediocre runner.”