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Matt Singer on June 29, 2006 - 3:35pm
Like many states, Montana is predicting a budget surplus for the first-time in years. Conservatives have taken a one-time upswing in the state's fiscal outlook as an opportunity to cut taxes for large businesses -- including outfits like BNSF railway that have neglected environmental responsibilities. But Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer has responded with a savvy proposal -- a fair system of property tax rebates for Montanans that gives an equal rebate to all homeowners. Both the conservative proposal and the Governor's proposal spend roughly the same amount of money. But while the conservative proposal includes large industrial facilities in the tax cut, the Governor includes only homeowners. And while the Governor's proposal provides for a flat rebate, the conservative proposal cuts taxes by an even percentage -- a move that hands a bundle of money to big industrial users and rich landowners, but does little for regular homeowners. There are two other economic reasons why the Governor's move makes more sense. While the conservative tax cut is permanent, risking harsh deficits in future years, the Governor takes a measured approach. And since rural areas have witnessed declining property values, the Governor's plan is likely to be a much-needed economic boost to Montana's small towns -- much more so than the conservative option. Ed Kemmick, a long-time Montana reporter and in-house blogger for the Billings Gazette, also explains how the Governor's move has left his conservative opponents stammering for a reply.