Voting on tax issues in Montana (1986-1994)
Montana citizens have used the initiative process to bring six taxation issues to the voters in the last nine years. Only two of these (1-105 and HB671) were confirmed by the electorate, all but one commanded substantial support. This study has focused on property taxes as potentially a root cause of voter dissatisfaction, even if it may sometimes be expressed as disapproval for other taxes, fees or spending. The dominant relationship found here is between voting and reappraisals of residential property. Voters in counties where property values rose more quickly were significantly more likely to support all but one of the citizen initiatives, in comparison with voters in counties with lower rates of property appreciation. In sharp contrast and somewhat unexpectedly, there is relatively little evidence that high property tax rates (mill levies) or rapidly increasing mill rates are significantly related to voting on tax issues. One explanation for these findings is that reappraisals are largely outside the control of both citizens and local officials, in contrast to mill levies. Thus, rapid property appreciation results in tax increases which have not been approved through the normal workings of the political process, resulting in citizen frustration and anger.