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Oct 28, 2010 10:26 AM by Becky Hillier (KTVQ Billings)

Backers, opponents discuss Montana CI-105

BILLINGS - Constitutional Initiative 105 on the Montana ballot seeks to permanently prohibit the state legislature from adopting a real estate transfer tax on the property you sell.

Proponents of the initiative say such a tax would amount to double taxation for property owners. But opponents say that the terminology is misleading and not true.

"At some point the voters of the state of Montana have to say enough is enough," says Montana Senator Jeff Essman (R-Billings).

For supporters of CI-105, that time is now.
Essman says Montana is one of 13 states that currently does not impose a tax on the sale of real estate. But in the last nine years, the issue to adopt a real estate transfer tax has been brought before state lawmakers eight times.

"None of these bills have progressed in the legislature, the goal of the supporters of the initiative is to make sure that it just never happens," Essman said.

Proponents of CI-105 are urging Montanans to stop double taxation by voting "yes" on the initiative, pointing to the housing related taxes we already pay.
"You pay an income tax when you earn the money to buy the home and then you make your house payments, and then you pay a tax every year to keep your home in terms of a real property tax," explained Essman.
But those opposed to CI-105 say the talk of double taxation is just a bunch of double talk.

"There is no real estate transfer tax now, so in order for there to be double taxation, there has to be one in existence, and there isn't," countered Montana Senator Kim Gillan (D-Billings).

Gillan opposes CI-105 because approval of the initiative would mean amending the state's constitution to prohibit a tax that Montana doesn't even have.
"My concern about this proposal is not on the merits of whether it's a good or a bad tax, it's on the fact that it doesn't belong in the constitution and is being fueled by special interest."

Several Montana based groups, including the Montana Association of Realtors, the Montana Building Industry, the Montana Chamber of Commerce and the Farm Bureau support CI-105, but the "special interest" groups, including the National Association of Realtors based in Chicago, have combined to raise nearly a million dollars to support the initiative, something that Gillan feels crosses the line.

"I think it could open the door to a lot of special interest coming in to influence Montana," he said. "The constitution isn't a place for special interest tax policy."

But CI-105 supporters have a special interest in putting the real estate transfer tax in its place, once and for all according to Essman.

"We've had tremendous growth in government and the only way to stop growth in government at some point is to stop the ability to keep taking taxes from the taxpayers."

Click here to read the ballot language for Constitutional Initiative 105. More Campaign 2010 news can be found here.

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