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6.3.07

Disingenuous Montgomery uninterested in lowering taxes

When you get a politician of advanced years and long service such as state Rep. Billy Montgomery, chances are he’s forgotten more about politics than many ever knew. But in his case, some recent statements and actions by him suggest he’s also forgotten more about himself and how to best serve his constituents than they ever would care to know.

Montgomery has prefiled HB 36 which is designed to undo income tax increases courtesy of the so-called “Stelly Plan.” In 2002, the House passed (interestingly enough, the same-named) HB 36 which constitutionally increased these income tax rates, subject to a vote of the people as with any constitutional amendment which led to its narrow adoption.

Montgomery now calls this is mistake. “I believe most people were misled or didn't know exactly what the Stelly Plan did,” he recently said at a public forum. Apparently, “most people” included Montgomery himself, for he was part of the two-thirds legislative majority that voted in favor of HB 36 in 2002. It received exactly the 70 votes needed to pass it along to the Senate. If not misled or he didn’t know exactly the plan’s implications, then by definition he knew what it was about exactly and thereby aided and abetted in misleading people.

Assuming he himself was “misled” or “didn’t know exactly,” being that at the time Montgomery had been a member of the House for 15 years, despite all of that experience, by his own testimony Montgomery appeared to be confused and/or ignorant about the true nature of a bill he was voting on – yet he voted for it anyway rather than opting for a safer vote against. As it was, Montgomery’s vote was the one crucial vote that allowed the measure to continue into law.

In essence, Montgomery is trying to undo what he now calls a mistake, something that by himself alone he could have stopped five years ago had he been a wiser politician. Whether repealing what he foisted on the public years ago now is sufficient penance is one matter. But, the fact is, with this bill Montgomery really isn’t actually asking for an unambiguous tax cut, another matter entirely.

This is because for its provisions to go into effect, his prefiled HB 38 also would have to be passed. Part of that bill would lock in the lower income tax rates. But there’s more to it: another part of the bill would remove the prohibition on the state’s ability to place a sales and use tax on food for home consumption and consumer purchases of natural gas, electricity, water, and prescription drugs.

In other words, Montgomery’s intent is not to cut taxes, it is literally to repeal the Stelly Plan. Because in exchange for lowering income tax rates that by his crucial vote he helped to raise in the first place, he is inviting the Legislature to raise sales taxes. Significantly, these kinds of taxes disproportionately fall upon lower-income families.

The explanation for this behavior is simple: Montgomery, in violation of the spirit of legislative term limits, is running for state Senate District 37 later this year. He has no real interest in cutting taxes because, as his legislative career shows, the Democrat-turned-Republican has been a tax-and-spend liberal and would rather empower government by taking resources from the people than to empower people themselves. He just wants to fool voters in probably the most conservative district in the state into thinking he’s one of them.

If Montgomery were a quality elected official, he would not have made a mistake after 15 years of seasoning he now claims he’s trying to correct. If Montgomery were a true conservative, when the state is sitting on $3.2 billion in surplus funds he would be trying to cut taxes without any chance of raising them in another way, instead of giving with one hand and taking with another – appropriate to his tax-and-spend legislative career.

Either he’s disingenuous, a dunderhead easily misled or confused about his job, or wrong on the issues for District 37. Maybe it’s time for those voters to give Montgomery a retirement he richly deserves. And the guy that should lead him to it is Jay Murrell, but that's a subject for a future posting.

1 comment:

James said...

Rep. Montgomery should serve as the poster boy for the proper application of the term limits law. How may of the "old guard" fit the definition of dunderhead or downright devious?

It's past time that they go their reward-at home, not in another house of the legislature.