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Sep 7, 2012 5:44 PM by Marnee Banks - MTN News

Bullock, Hill differ on Montana taxes

HELENA- Democratic candidate for Governor Steve Bullock is criticizing his Republican opponent's tax policy. Montana's News Station State Political Reporter Marnee Banks spoke with Rick Hill to get his reaction, only to find out he has some criticisms of his own.

The Bullock campaign is criticizing Hill for his stance on sales taxes. Hill worked in 1993 for Governor Marc Racicot, lobbying in favor of a sales tax, but Hill says that doesn't mean he wants a sales tax.

"Gov. Racicot felt it was his responsibility to give voters to vote on that tax reform package. When I worked with him that was my responsibility, to see if we could get that on the ballot," Hill explained.

During a radio interview last year, Hill was asked if he would support a sales tax. He said he would if it were a substitute tax, meaning if it replaced income or property taxes. Hill also says this was a hypothetical question, and a sales tax is not part of his tax plan at all.

"I am not advocating for a sales tax. We are not going to advocate for a sales tax. We are not going to support a sales tax. It's not part of our agenda," Hill said.

Bullock's campaign seems to see it differently.

"I think our positions on taxes, it couldn't be more clear of the differences. I support a tax rebate $400 for every homeowner in Montana, also eliminating the business equipment tax for 11,000 small businesses," Bullock said.

"Small businesses are really the drivers of our economy here. On the other hand, the Congressman has expressed interest in essentially massive giveaways for out of corporations and he'd fund that with a 4%, $400 million sales tax that's on every product we have from guns to food to groceries," he concluded.

Hill says he wants to cut taxes, and Bullock's rebate plan is just a one time gimmick.

"What's important is that it be permanent tax relief, not a one time tax rebate. Mr. Bullock is proposing to give people just a one time tax rebate. In fact, my running mate when he carried a similar proposal for the current governor, called that table scraps and it really is. What Montanans want is permanent tax relief."

"We need to make sure that we always, as the Governor would say, a little grain in the bin, a little bit of a rainy day fund. So when we have a little extra we can give it back to homeowners. I want to give it to homeowners and working Montanans, not out-of-state corporations," Bullock countered.

Hill and Bullock both want to see the state use its natural resources as a potential revenue stream, but their ideas about how to do that are quite different.

"We need to use natural resource revenues and the benefits that are going to come to all of Montana through natural resource revenues to change how we fund education. In the end we will have more resources for education, and we will also have lower property taxes," Hill said.

Bullock would like to look at changing the oil and gas tax holiday so oil and gas companies don't get a tax break during the first 12-18 months a well starts pumping.

"We have to have a real conversation with the Legislature about that tax holiday, because there are some real needs in eastern Montana, infrastructure needs. I've been there. I've visited there. Our tax rates are already less than North Dakota and we need to take a look at this, and work with the Legislature to find out what works best for Montana," stated Bullock.

Hill says he would not support changing the oil and tax holiday, adding it's an incentive for these companies to do business in Montana.

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