Most Republicans in Montana either live in districts where they don’t have to watch what they say or are politically savvy enough to hide their intentions behind well-worn catchphrases, but Joey Chester, running to unseat Democrat Zach Brown in HD63 either lacks the sophistication to filter his commentary or truly believes that Montanans, who have repeatedly rejected the imposition of a sales tax and who support public lands, will somehow support a candidate who supports both unpopular ideas.
Chester, rebutting an argument Representative Brown made, argued on his Facebook page not only that Montana should have a sales tax, but that we should sell public lands to pay for revenue lost from property tax deductions:
My opponent has falsely claimed that I have called for the abolishment of the entire property tax structure in Montana. I said it is something we should be looking into. I’m a college student and absolutely am an advocate for education. To insinuate that I don’t support education in the state of Montana is absurd. If we do abolish the property tax then we must look into how we can profit off our public lands more and also look into potentially adding a small sales tax to capture tourism dollars but result in Montanan’s paying less in taxes overall. Zach should understand that if our federal public lands were in state control, we’d profit more money that could go to education funding. The idea that the extreme burden of property tax on many Montanans is the only way education can be funded is absurd.
I’m not sure what Mr. Chester is studying in college, but a discussion of abolishing property taxes does not lead to the idea of a small sales tax. Montana, which currently sits in the middle of the pack for property tax rates, would have to implement a massive sales tax to recoup that lost revenue, threatening schools, government services, and the viability of our state’s budget. A sales tax large enough to raise the revenue raised by property tax would be huge and represent a massive regressive shift in the way Montanans pay taxes, causing enormous difficulty for elderly and impoverished Montanans.
Just as worrying is the assertion that transferring public lands would somehow allow the state to “profit” from those areas. All the credible analysis suggests that were the federal government to cede control of lands to the state, we’d face unimaginable burdens from management and the cost of fighting fires. That’s why we all know the end game of lands transfer movement is selling off those parcels to private owners, who, if people like Chester got their way, wouldn’t even pay taxes on them.
If you want help keep Chester’s views on the margins, be sure to visit Representative Brown’s page and throw him a small donation. Just as important, keep in mind that Chester’s views, absurd as they are, represent what many Republicans legislators envision. If you’re represented by one of these people, find out where they stand on public lands and a sales tax–and let your friends and neighbors know just how radical this agenda really is.