— Story by Mike Dennison – MTN News
HELENA — Republicans in the Montana House voted Monday to increase state income-tax revenue — by repealing more than a dozen tax credits, including several that benefit installers of energy-conservation and alternative-energy systems.
On a largely party-line vote with Republicans in favor, the House voted 56-44 for House Bill 144, which would repeal the tax credits starting next year and increase state income-tax revenue by an estimated $5 million annually.
“We’re always looking for revenue,” said the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Alan Redfield, R-Livingston. “Why should I as a taxpayer have to subsidize someone else’s taxes? Or energy savings? If it’s an energy saving, it’s making money on its own. We shouldn’t have to pay for it, too.”
All but two Democrats in the House voted against the measure and several stood up to defend the tax credits for installing energy conservation measures or alternative-energy systems, like rooftop solar power.
Rep. Denise Hayman, D-Bozeman, said the tax credit for installing alternative-energy systems cost the state only $315,000 in 2017 — while sales of net-metered solar power systems for homes and businesses generated about $7.2 million in revenue for the installers.
“(The credit) has a minimal effect on the state’s overall budget, but has a large impact on a Montana industry that is trying to grow,” she said.
Rep. Dave Fern, D-Whitefish, also said that while some tax credits deserve to be ditched, because they’re seldom used, the Legislature should develop a more “thorough process” for reviewing them.
But Redfield said most of the credits removed by HB144 are not used, and that the energy-related tax credits save the users money already.
His bill would remove 17 state income-tax credits. A fiscal analysis from the governor’s budget office said all but four of them are rarely used, if at all, and that removing them would have no impact on the state budget.
The ones that are used include not only the energy-related credits, but also ones for contributing to state colleges and universities and for preserving historic properties.