HELENA – The Montana House Friday narrowly endorsed a bill requiring a two-thirds majority of both the House and Senate to enact a tax or fee increase, or new tax or fee.
House Bill 148, sponsored by Rep. Forrest Mandeville, R-Columbus, won endorsement on a 53-47 vote, with all 42 House Democrats and five Republicans voting “no.” A final vote is scheduled Monday, after which the measure goes to the Senate – if it passes.
Mandeville said new or higher taxes should be subject to a “higher level of scrutiny” and that a dozen other states require super-majorities of the Legislature to enact tax increases.
“You could still increase taxes or fees with this bill,” he said during floor debate. “What this bill will do, is encourage bipartisanship and better policy if we do increase taxes or fees.”
Rep. Zach Brown, D-Bozeman, spoke against the measure Friday, saying states requiring super-majorities to pass tax increases have seen big cuts in government services, because it’s too difficult to enact taxes needed to support those services.
He pointed to Oklahoma and Arizona, which have seen substantial cuts in state support for public schools and mental-health services.
Brown also said he’s sat on the House Taxation Committee since 2015 and has never seen it vote for a tax increase.
“The Tax Committee is doing its job to protect the pocketbooks (of Montanans),” he said. “Every time we chip away at our own ability to govern, we do the people of Montana a disservice.”