ICYMI: Mike Cooney Leads The Charge On Banning A Montana Sales Tax, Striking At Key Vulnerability For GOP Nominee Greg Gianforte
Montanans have twice voted in overwhelming numbers to reject a statewide sales tax and in 2016, it was a key issue that led to Greg Gianforte’s defeat against Gov. Steve Bullock. History looks to be repeating itself in Montana as Gianforte struggles to explain how to square his long support for the sales tax as an “ideal solution” with a Montana electorate hostile to the policy. Meanwhile Mike Cooney has launched a Constitutional Initiative to ban the legislature from enacting a sales tax ever again.
Republicans launched a desperate attack hoping to muddy the waters by pointing to a research bill draft Cooney requested to verify the harm a statewide sales tax would cause. Unfortunately for them, Cooney has a rock-solid voting record against a statewide sales tax, even voting against the specific bill that Gianforte supported.
KTVH: Cooney proposes constitutional amendment banning sales tax
HELENA — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mike Cooney took his opposition to a statewide sales tax to a new level Monday, launching a voter referendum to place a sales-tax ban in the Montana constitution.
“We’re taking it straight to the people of Montana to decide once and for all: No statewide sales tax,” he said at a Helena news conference. “Not today, not two years from now, not ever.”
Cooney, the state’s lieutenant governor, also said that his Republican opponent, U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte, has spoken favorably of a sales tax in the past and can’t be trusted when he says he now opposes a sales tax.
“He even told a constituent group a couple of week ago that he had never supported a sales tax,” Cooney said. “This is not a man we can trust to be honest about his real positions.”
Cooney said Monday he made the request because he wanted to study the issue, as Republicans advanced their own sales-tax proposals for the 2005 Legislature. Cooney’s request never became a bill, while some GOP proposals did advance – and Cooney voted against the only one that made it to the Senate floor.
On Monday, Cooney and Schreiner, a state representative from Great Falls, said they’ll be organizing Montanans Against a Sales Tax, to place a proposed constitutional amendment on the 2022 ballot.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney announced a proposal Monday to constitutionally prohibit a sales tax in Montana.
Cooney and running mate Rep. Casey Schreiner, of Great Falls, announced the start of a constitutional initiative signature-gathering effort under the group “Montanans Against a Sales Tax.” If successful, the measure would need to gather more than 50,000 signatures and would go before voters in two years.
Cooney’s campaign has launched a similar line of attack against Gianforte as one that term-limited Gov. Steve Bullock brought in 2016, when Bullock beat Gianforte by 4 percentage points to win reelection.
Democrats cite testimony Gianforte made as a private businessman in 2002 in which he called a sales tax an “ideal solution from a high-tech perspective.”
“There will always be people like Greg Gianforte who are going to be looking for ways to bring a tax Montanans don’t like, and have outwardly spoken about it, to the forefront and sneak it in sometime,” Cooney said. “I think (a constitutional initiative) gives Montanans a real protection.”
Cooney questioned Gianforte’s opposition to a sales tax dating back to the Republican’s first run for governor in 2016. The Democrat’s campaign has cited reports that Gianforte misled police following his election-night assault of a reporter in 2017 in attempting to sway voters about Gianforte’s trustworthiness on a variety of issues.
Back in 2002, Gianforte has said he was speaking in hypothetical terms while lobbying for lower tax rates when he told then-Republican Gov. Judy Martz’s Income Tax Advisory Council that a sales tax was “an ideal solution” because other states had better tax incentives for high-tech industries.
Cooney has attacked Gianforte, including with ads characterizing a theoretical statewide sales tax as a “Gianfortax” on various goods. Cooney did say in response to a reporter’s question that a sales tax could be coupled with other tax relief but would not be certain and that sales taxes by nature are regressive and push tax relief onto the wealthy.
Cooney said Monday he introduced the bill draft in an effort to gather fiscal information on Republican proposals to bring a sales tax. He consistently voted against sales tax bills and the bill draft was never introduced in the Legislature.