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Tobacco tax, mine reclamation initiatives qualify for Montana’s November ballot

Posted at 8:28 PM, Jul 26, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-26 22:28:13-04

HELENA – Montana voters will weigh in on proposals this November to increase the state’s tobacco taxes and create new water standards for hard-rock mines.

Montana Secretary of State Corey Stapleton’s office announced Wednesday that Initiative 185 and Initiative 186 both received enough voter signatures to qualify for the November ballot.

I-185 would increase the state tax on cigarettes by $2 a pack, to $3.70 a pack. It would also raise taxes on other tobacco products, including moist snuff, as well as e-cigarettes and vaping products.

Up to $26 million of the money raised would be used to extend Montana’s Medicaid expansion program, which is currently scheduled to expire next year. Medicaid expansion provides government-funded health care for childless adults earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. It currently covers about 96,000 people in the state.

The rest of the money from higher tobacco taxes would be directed to other services, like tobacco prevention, home- and community-based Medicaid services and health care for veterans.

I-186 would require the Montana Department of Environmental Quality to deny a permit for any new hard-rock mine if its reclamation plan requires “perpetual treatment” of water affected by acidic mine drainage or other runoff.

A voter initiative needs to get signatures from more than 25,000 registered Montana voters to qualify for the ballot. It also needs signatures from at least 5 percent of registered voters in at least 34 of Montana’s 100 state House districts. The Secretary of State’s office says three other proposed initiatives failed to receive enough signatures to qualify.

I-185 and I-186 will join two other measures on the November ballot, both referendums proposed by the state Legislature: LR-128, which would continue the existing 6-mill tax levy to support public colleges and universities, and LR-129, which would prohibit certain people from collecting another voter’s mail ballot.