With initiative signature deadline in Montana, Medicaid expansion and cable tax cut initiatives out

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June 20, 2014

By Ryan Byrne

Montana
On June 20, 2014, approximately seven ballot initiative campaigns had the opportunity to turn in signatures to be verified in the hope of having their initiatives certified for the general election ballot in Montana. Four of the potential measures are initiated state statutes and three are initiated constitutional amendments. Details will be provided in the coming days as the state announces which campaigns turned in signatures and which did not.

Two prominent campaigns dropped their measures on the day before the signature deadline. An organization known as the Healthy Montana Initiative dropped their Medicaid Expansion Initiative on June 19, 2014. Kim Abbott, president of the organization, stated that they collected about 25,000 signatures out of the 24,175 required for certification. Abbott claimed that, historically, 30 percent of signatures are deemed invalid. Therefore, 825 extra signatures would not be enough to overcome the validation process.[1] The measure would have expanded Medicaid as prescribed under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly known as “Obamacare,” to cover people earning up to 138% of the federal poverty line.[2] Charter Communications, a telecommunications company, also pulled their measure, the Cable Company Property Tax Initiative, on the 19th. The measure would have reclassified cable television companies’ property for taxation purposes. Specifically, Charter desired to reclassify cable television property to avoid a tax increase of more than 300%.[3][4] The company struck a settlement deal with the Montana Department of Revenue that allowed them to keep $9 million of $34 million in disputed taxes from 2010 through 2013. Montana Department of Revenue Director Mike Kadas said, "I think there's probably a temptation to say it was the initiative that motivated the settlement. I just want to say very clearly this is a very good settlement, and I would have done it whether there was an initiative or not. The fact that there was an initiative, I think, helped create a deadline."[5]

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