Essmann: Equity, clarity will be focus of tax committee

By Freddy Monares/UM Legislative News Service

HELENA – Senate Taxation Committee Chairman, Republican Jeff Essmann of Billings, says he expects his committee to focus on equity and clarity of Montana’s tax policy this session.

The state budget, he says, will dominate revenue debates.

“Leadership in both chambers and in the expenditure committees have indicated that’ll be a tough hill to climb,” Essmann said.

A tight budget has already strained legislators during the first week of the 65th legislative session, and whether to use tax increases to help balance the budget will be a big part of the debate.

Republican Rep. Jim O’ Hara from Fort Benton has this take on the debate: “I can tell you at the local level budgets are very tight, and as a taxpayer I’m aware that nobody wants their taxes to go up right now. It’s kind of a squeeze right now.”

The Senate Taxation Committee will get a draft of the 2017 Department of Revenue’s biennial report on Thursday.

Freddy Monares is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association and the Greater Montana Foundation.