Know the consequences of CI-121

Know the consequences before signing the petition to put CI-121 on the November ballot. At first glance, CI-121 and freezing your residential property taxes may seem like a good idea. But if you investigate further the details of this deceptive ballot initiative, you will discover several harmful consequences.

What is CI-121? This is a ballot initiative proposing a constitutional amendment that would freeze the value of residential property at 2019 levels and change the assessed value to acquisition value upon purchase. This concept is not new and does not come from Montana. It is based on a Californian idea proposed by a Californian couple. If passed, CI-121 would insert an amendment into our state’s constitution that would freeze the value of all residential properties at 2019 levels, not just owner-occupied homes. It would also freeze the value of second or third homes, vacation rentals and other vacation properties. This will create a dramatic tax shift, placing most of the burden of property tax on farm properties, small businesses and new homeowners, while wealthy foreigners enjoy a significant tax reduction on their holiday home in Montana.

Additionally, freezing residential property values ​​at 2019 levels is not helping Montana citizens who have seen their homes appreciate in value over the past two decades, especially in Montana’s recreation areas. This will discourage grandparents from downsizing, as they will pay more taxes for a new, smaller home. Young families will pay more property taxes to buy a different home to meet their growing needs. Meanwhile, since there would be no freeze on commercial property values, the tax burden borne by small businesses, farmers and ranchers in Montana will skyrocket.

Property taxes provide essential funding for local services that vitally support our communities like your local schools, courthouse and hospitals. If passed, CI-121 would reduce this critical funding and remove local control of schools and hospitals that will be forced to rely more on state and federal funding to survive.

Many CI-121 supporters also want to have a sales tax. By freezing residential property taxes, it is draining funding from our schools and communities, forcing us to replace that funding with the imposition of a sales tax.

Please understand all of the implications of CI-121 before locking this bad tax policy into our constitution that would freeze residential property taxes, unfairly shift the burden of property taxes onto hard-working Montanese, undermine essential funding for essential community services and tie the hands of your local leaders.

Walter Schweitzer is the president of the Montana Farmers Union.

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