Big Sky Roundup

Property tax initiative garners few signatures

By: - June 21, 2022 2:55 pm

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

Constitutional Initiative 121 looks like a bust for the 2022 general election ballot.

Monday, the Montana Secretary of State’s Office counted just 2,452 out of the necessary 60,359 signatures following the Friday deadline for signature collection, although the dust has yet to settle.

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

Richie Melby, with the Secretary of State’s Office, said county election administrators still are processing petitions. He said more signatures collected by the Friday deadline could be submitted to the state in the next couple of weeks, although the number received to date is just 4.7 percent of the total necessary to put the measure to voters.

“The counties have until July 15 to file with our office, so counties can process petitions in the election management system up until that date,” Melby said in an email. “As you know, counties are currently in the process of conducting the post-election audit and county canvass, so they may wait on putting the petition information into the election management system until those are complete.”

Matthew Monforton, with Cap Montana Property Taxes, said his committee is still waiting for the official count. He said he’s still hoping the totals will grow given the support in Montana for property tax reform.

“We’re doubtful the Legislature will enact any meaningful reforms in our property tax system, and we’ll be at it again next year if necessary,” said Monforton, who submitted the proposed ballot issue with Troy Downing, state auditor.

The Monday report from the Secretary of State’s Office showed 2,871 signatures collected in all, 374 rejected signatures, and 41 blank lines or crossed out signatures. The agency notes signatures must be obtained from 10 percent of the total number of qualified voters in Montana, including 10 percent of the voters in each of 40 legislative house districts.

Ron Ostberg, with Know the Consequences, NO on CI-121 committee, earlier told the Daily Montanan he believes opponents were successful in getting out the word of the damage to schools, farmers and small businesses if the measure were to advance.

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

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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.”

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