Collection of signatures can continue on the property tax initiative | national news

HELEN, Mont. (AP) — A new law that requires Montana’s attorney general to warn voters if a proposed ballot initiative would harm businesses does not apply to ballot measures that would change the state’s constitution, a judge ruled. ‘State.

Helena District Court Judge Chris Abbott’s Wednesday ruling allows signature collection to continue for a constitutional initiative that aims to cap residential property taxes at 1% of assessed value and limit annual changes in assessments, thereby limiting residential property tax changes.

Market value appraisals would be conducted when property is sold or significantly improved, under the proposed initiative.

The Montana Federation of Public Employees, Montana Farmers Union, real estate agent Jeff Barber, farmer Ron Ostberg and rancher Dennis McDonald argued in a lawsuit filed in January that Secretary of State Christi Jacobsen and the prosecutor General Austin Knudsen had failed to meet the requirements of the new law. before allowing signatures to be collected to put Constitutional Initiative 121 to the November 2022 ballot.

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Legislation passed by the 2021 Legislature requires the Attorney General to review ballot initiatives to see if they would impact business and also requires the Secretary of State to forward such initiatives to the Legislative Services Division for a interim legislative committee reviews the proposal and the offer. his opinion.

The state argued, and Abbott agreed, that the new law applies only to initiatives to change the law, not to initiatives to change the state constitution.

The plaintiffs oppose the ballot initiative because limiting residential property taxes could shift the tax burden to farmland and other property and result in cuts to state services.

The Legislature’s Interim Revenue Committee voted unanimously last week to oppose the Constitutional initiative, which is modeled after one passed in California in 1978 that allows people who stay in their homes longer to pay taxes on far less than the market value of the property. Proponents argue the proposal would prevent people on fixed incomes from being taxed outside their homes.

Former state legislator Matthew Monforton and current state auditor Troy Downing proposed the CI-121. Supporters have until June 17 to collect the more than 60,000 signatures needed to put the issue to voters in November.

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Penny D. Jackson