Democrats unveil legislation aimed at addressing property taxes

At a news conference on at the State Capitol, Senate Minority Leader Pat Flowers, D-Belgrade and Rep. Jonathan Karlen, D-Missoula, unveiled three bills they plan to introduce in the 2025 legislative session.

– The first bill would establish a “homestead exemption,” exempting the first $50,000 of a home’s value and the first $200,000 of a small business’s value from taxation.

– The second bill aims to reform residential property tax rates by creating multiple brackets based on a home’s value, with higher rates for more expensive properties.

– The third bill proposes a “Housing Fairness Tax Credit,” an idea similar to one Karlen introduced in 2021. This credit would offset a portion of property taxes for eligible residents if those taxes exceed a specific percentage of the owner’s income.

“Montanans can’t control skyrocketing home values, and as a result, working families and seniors are being priced out of their homes and their communities,” Karlen stated.

The Democrats estimate that their plan would reduce residential property taxes by $214 million and small business taxes by $14 million. Flowers noted that part of the funding would come from reversing $100 million in what he called “tax giveaways to major corporations.” They assured that the changes should not significantly impact city, county, or school district revenues due to the way local governments can adjust their mill levies.

The plan would provide only a few hundred dollars in savings for the average taxpayer, far less than the $675 tax rebates that Republicans passed in 2023.

As the minority party, Democrats have criticized Governor Greg Gianforte and the majority Republicans for not providing long-term property tax relief in the last session. “We knew it was coming, we knew how to prevent it, and they did nothing,” Flowers said. However, no Democrat introduced a bill in 2023 to address long-term property tax relief.

Republicans highlighted the property tax rebates approved in 2023, which will be available to homeowners again this year. Gianforte also formed a task force to study long-term solutions to rising property taxes, with a report expected next month.

Sean Southard, Gianforte’s communications director, responded, “While some Democrat politicians are grandstanding with press conferences and Twitter videos, Governor Gianforte is delivering solutions to the problems facing hardworking Montanans, including Biden’s affordability crisis. The governor is encouraged by the progress of the bipartisan property tax task force he launched, particularly the discussions about capping the growth of local spending, which drives property tax increases, and providing a homestead exemption to ensure out-of-staters, who own second homes in Montana, pay their fair share for our law enforcement, schools, and roads and bridges.”

By: Politics406 staff