News

Independent Fact-Checker Confirms Gianforte's Sales Tax Lie

Ballotpedia Concludes Gianforte Advocated for a Sales Tax in Montana, Despite Saying He 'Never' Has
As New Jersey millionaire Greg Gianforte barnstorms Montana trying to convince everyone who listens that he "never" advocated for a statewide sales tax, the independent fact-checking organization Ballotpedia published a report confirming that Gianforte's claim is a lie.

Ballotpedia concludes Gianforte did, in fact, lobby the state for a sales tax. Ballotpedia says: "Gianforte presented three solutions to make Montana more competitive, one of which was to adopt a statewide sales tax in exchange for lowering taxes on income and capital gains."

Balllotpedia further pushed back against Gianforte's claims that in 2002 he said the sales tax was not "politically viable" and that he didn't really support it:  

In an email responding to questions from Verbatim, Gianforte campaign spokesman Aaron Flint said, “While Greg discussed a range of potential options with legislators at that hearing, what is important is what Greg actually called on legislators to do." According to Flint, Gianforte advocated that lawmakers lower income and capital gains tax rates, but not did consider introduction of a sales tax to be politically viable. The minutes of the meeting do not contain any statements by Gianforte regarding the political viability of a sales tax. 
Montanans, meanwhile, are protesting Gianforte's history of lobbying for an unpopular statewide sales tax. Sometimes dressed as Pinocchio, the protesters are holding Gianforte accountable to the truth. 

See Ballotpedia's full factcheck here:

November 6, 2016
Paul Brennan // Ballotpedia 


Republican Greg Gianforte is challenging incumbent Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, a Democrat, in the general election. Whether Montana should adopt a sales tax has been a matter of debate, although both candidates have stated they oppose such a tax.[1]

During an October 24, 2016, town hall-style teleconference, Gianforte said that Democrats had falsely suggested that he supported a statewide sales tax. “I don’t support a sales tax,” Gianforte said. “You know, never have.”[2]

Is that true? Has Gianforte ever supported a sales tax for Montana?

As a candidate, Gianforte has openly opposed adoption of a state sales tax. In 2002, at a meeting of the Governor's Income Tax Advisory Council, Gianforte presented three solutions to make Montana more competitive, one of which was to adopt a statewide sales tax in exchange for lowering taxes on income and capital gains.[3]

Background

Montana is one of five states that has no statewide sales tax.[4] Ballot proposals to allow the state legislature to impose such a tax were rejected by voters in 1971 and 1993.[5] [6] In 2003, Gov. Judy Martz, a Republican, included a statewide sales tax as part of her tax reform plan.[7] A bill to create the sales tax was introduced in the Montana State Senate that year and was referred to the Taxation Committee, but never received a vote.[8]

On his campaign website, Gianforte states, “I am opposed to a statewide sales tax.” In his proposal to reform Montana’s tax structure, he includes keeping the sales tax at zero.[9]

The Governor's Income Tax Advisory Council


In 2002, Gov. Martz created The Governor’s Income Tax Advisory Council to recommend changes to Montana's tax structure.[10] Gianforte testified at the council’s May 30, 2002 meeting. The minutes of the meeting identify Gianforte as “a taxpayer from Bozeman and CEO of RightNow Technologies, a software company employing 200 people.”[3]

According to the minutes of the meeting, Gianforte began by telling the commission Montana’s capital gains tax and income tax was discouraging business development in the state.

[Gianforte] presented three particular solutions: If we want to create high tech jobs, the best solution would be to replace the current income tax with a sales tax. He proposed we eliminate federal deductibility, thus lowering the marginal tax rate. He said perception is reality; it doesn't matter what reality is, it is about what people perceive reality to be. When he is trying to recruit people for his company, they find 11% to be an offensive tax rate.[3][11]

Gianforte also advocated changing the way the state taxed capital gains to create an incentive program "for businesses that are started to create high-wage jobs."[3]

In an email responding to questions from Verbatim, Gianforte campaign spokesman Aaron Flint said, “While Greg discussed a range of potential options with legislators at that hearing, what is important is what Greg actually called on legislators to do." According to Flint, Gianforte advocated that lawmakers lower income and capital gains tax rates, but not did consider introduction of a sales tax to be politically viable.[12] The minutes of the meeting do not contain any statements by Gianforte regarding the political viability of a sales tax. [3]

Conclusion


During an October 24, 2016, town hall-style teleconference, Greg Gianforte, the Republican candidate for governor of Montana, said “I don’t support a sales tax. You know, never have.”

As a candidate, Gianforte has openly opposed adoption of a state sales tax. In 2002, at a meeting of the Governor's Income Tax Advisory Council, Gianforte presented three solutions to make Montana more competitive, one of which was to adopt a statewide sales tax in exchange for lowering taxes on income and capital gains.

Stay Informed

Sign Up to Get News and Action Alerts